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Barcelona

Klopp’s moan discredited Real Madrid

Ronald Koeman has said Jurgen Klopp’s complaints about playing at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in midweek discredited Real Madrid as he prepares to take his Barcelona side there for Saturday’s Clasico.

Klopp bemoaned having to play at a “training ground” prior to Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday.

After the match, the German coach said it was “really difficult” and that at least the second leg would be played at a “proper stadium”

“That discredits Real Madrid a little bit,” Barca boss Koeman said in a pre-Clasico news conference on Friday.

“They have chosen this moment to carry out work on their stadium, well done [to them]. For the players, it’s hard to play without fans regardless.

“Maybe Madrid are used to playing there but the opposition know where they’re going to play and that’s it. It’s not important for me. I am sure the pitch will be good and that’s the most important thing.”

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Madrid are playing at the Di Stefano as the Bernabeu is undergoing major work — including adding a roof and a retractable pitch — which isn’t expected to be fully completed until the 2022-23 season.

Their last match at their usual home, coincidentally, was a 2-0 Clasico win over Barcelona on March 1 2020.

That laid the foundations for Zinedine Zidane’s side to win La Liga last season and this weekend’s meeting between the two sides could also prove key in the title race.

Since the turn of the year, both Barcelona, unbeaten in 19 league games, and Madrid, who haven’t lost in nine, have cut the gap on leaders Atletico Madrid. Barca are just one point off the top; Madrid are three back.

“In principle, the result won’t be decisive because there are a lot of games to go after this one and all teams [in the title race] will encounter problems,” Koeman added.

“But it’s true that given the moment of the season, with us both fighting for the top spot with Atletico, of course the team that wins will receive a hugely important morale boost.”

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Atletico’s lead was over 10 points at one stage and looked insurmountable, which led to what Koeman labelled unfair criticism of Zidane and his Madrid side.

“Madrid are Madrid,” the Dutchman added. “They have had, I think, too much criticism, but they are still in the Champions League and are fighting to win the league. I don’t agree with people that have criticised Madrid a lot. They have great coach and great players.”

Barca, who lost 3-1 to Madrid at Camp Nou earlier in the campaign, welcome back Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto from injury for the trip to the capital but Koeman wouldn’t confirm if either would start the game. Neto, Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho are still out.

A win would temporarily take either side to the top of the table, with leaders Atletico in action at Real Betis on Sunday.

After this weekend’s games, there will be just eight to go in Spain’s top flight, with Barca due to host Atletico in another standout fixture in the title race at the start of May.

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