Trips to Pamplona are difficult at the best of times, but especially in the midst of such hostile conditions and in the middle of January. It’s a must-win game for Madrid, who are two points behind city rivals Atletico Madrid with two more games played.
To complicate matters further, there are a number of off-field issues bubbling at the club, chief among them the latest news that Karim Benzema has been called to court for his role in an alleged blackmail.
Zinedine Zidane, speaking pre-game, responded to the news. “[Benzema] has my support,” he said in comments carried by Marca. “It’s not an easy situation, that’s clear, but I see that he’s fine and is concentrating on his work. It’s a difficult situation and I hope it will be resolved for everyone’s sake. Karim is working, which is what he likes to do.”
As for the storm, Zidane said that it wasn’t going to affect his starting lineup, claiming that his players were robust enough in body and mind to withstand such conditions. “The storm isn’t going to affect the line-up,” he said. “[Eden] Hazard, for example, is used to this because he played in London. The team isn’t going to be affected by this.”
Another off-field issue is the uncertain future of two best friends and Madrid stalwarts, Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez. Zidane was asked whether Ramos’ contract negotiations could go the same way as Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the club somewhat acrimoniously in 2018 after winning the Champions League.
“I don’t know what will happen,” Zidane said. “He’s here for the moment. We’re focused on tomorrow’s game. In football, you never know. What we want for the players is for it to be resolved. You’ll always ask me, but you know what I’m going to say.”
There was also the looming spectre of Coronavirus, with Zidane himself coming into close contact with a positive case in recent days and his ability to travel to Osasuna coming into doubt. The Frenchman, however, confirmed he was okay.
“I’ve tested negative, so I’m going to travel,” Zidane said. “Now we’re going to focus on the game. We’ve always known what we’re playing for, and it’s a complicated, difficult ground. We have to be prepared to give the best version of ourselves.”