Zidane hopes Saturday not the end of Messi's El Clasico career

"I hope it is not Lionel Messi's last El Clasico, I want him to stay at FC Barcelona, it's good for the Spanish league," Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said.

Zinedine Zidane-managed Real Madrid will host Lionel Messi-captained Barcelona in a 2020-21 La Liga 'El Clasico' encounter on Saturday (File Photo).   -  Getty Images

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he hopes that Saturday's 'El Clasico' meeting between his side and Barcelona will not be the last time Lionel Messi plays in the fixture.

The Barca captain's contract expires this summer and his future is up in the air having been linked with a move away ever since his attempts to leave the club last year were unsuccessful.

New president Joan Laporta has vowed to keep the Argentine superstar at the club, but so far no new deal has been agreed. "I hope it's not (Messi's last Clasico), I want him to stay at Barcelona, it's good for the Spanish league," Zidane told a news conference.

"We know what a player he is, but they're a very good team and we'll have to try to stop them playing to their strengths and be as good as we can be on the ball and play as best as we can."

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Real's club captain Sergio Ramos is another player whose contract expires at the end of the season, and Zidane reiterated his hope that the 35-year-old has not faced Barca for the final time, either.

"Hopefully he's not played his last El Clasico. He won't be fit tomorrow, which is a shame, but I hope he stays here," the French coach said.

Zidane will also be without Raphael Varane, who continues to isolate following a positive COVID-19 test, as well as Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard, who continue to recover from long-standing problems.

Champion Real currently sits third in La Liga, three points off leader Atletico Madrid and two behind Barca in second place. Defeat would make it very difficult for the team to defend its title. However, Zidane insisted his players were thinking about nothing but victory.

"I'm not thinking about losing or losing ground," he said. "We'll see what the situation is at the end of the game; we're going to give our all, we're positive and want to play our best game."