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‘This is not Zidane vs Guardiola, it’s Real Madrid vs Manchester City’ – Blancos boss dismisses any Pep rivalry

The Frenchman is eager to avoid any distractions ahead of a meeting with the Premier League champions in the Champions League knockout stages

Zinedine Zidane has dismissed talk of a possible touchline rivalry with Pep Guardiola as he prepares his Real Madrid side to welcome Manchester City to Santiago Bernabeu.

The two European heavyweights are scheduled to face off in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie in the Spanish capital on Wednesday night.

Madrid have won the competition 13 times in total, with three of those triumphs coming during Zidane’s first spell in charge between 2015 and 2018.

The Frenchman decided to leave the club after their last European Cup final win over Liverpool in Kiev, but returned to familiar surroundings in March 2019.

Madrid were knocked out of the competition in the first knockout phase at the hands of Ajax last term, with Santiago Solari ultimately paying for the defeat with his job.

Zidane came back to steady the ship, and has turned the Blancos into title contenders again this season, while delivering another trophy in the form of the Supercopa de Espana.

The 47-year-old will now pit his wits against another of the world’s most respected managers in Guardiola, who won two Champions League crowns of his own while in charge at Barcelona.

Zidane has described his counterpart as “the best coach in the world”, while attempting to shift the focus away from the men in the dugout and onto the players on the pitch ahead of City’s arrival at the Bernabeu.

“This is not Zidane vs Guardiola, it’s Real Madrid vs Manchester City… Guardiola is the best coach in the world for me,” the Madrid boss told a press conference.

“I talked with him in the past, he was very honest with me and these conversations were very good.

“We can talk about a Clasico [because Guardiola is City’s coach and used to be at Barcelona] but the only true thing is that this will be a nice match.

“We want our supporters to be proud of us so we must do our best for them.”

Madrid will be aiming to bounce back from a damaging 1-0 defeat away at Levante when they take on City, who will likely be high on confidence after beating Leicester in their last Premier League outing.

Zidane’s men slipped two points behind Barcelona in the Liga standings after suffering only their second loss of the season, with a Clasico showdown on the horizon next weekend.

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