MADRID: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says next week's crunch match with La Liga title rivals Barcelona will not influence his team selection against Valencia on Sunday, even though midfielder Casemiro is one booking away from a suspension.
The Brazilian has started all of Real's 15 games this season as well as every Champions League match. But if he were to earn a yellow card against Valencia he would be a huge loss to Zidane's side when they visit the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
"Casemiro is like any other player and we know how important he is to us, but I have to pick my team thinking only about tomorrow's game," the coach told a news conference on Saturday.
"If I start to think about Wednesday's match I'll be making a big mistake. The next game is always the most important one, and it's vital that you have all best players available for it."
Real, who are second in the standings but locked on 34 points with leaders Barcelona, are unbeaten in their last 10 games in all competitions.
But their form will be put to the test by a resurgent Valencia side who are on a high after beating Ajax Amsterdam 1-0 away from home on Tuesday to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in seven years.
"It's another big challenge for us. Valencia are playing very well and getting great results, but we want produce our best possible display," added Zidane.
The coach is without both of his usual left-sided defenders as Ferland Mendy is suspended and Marcelo injured, while Eden Hazard is still sidelined with an ankle problem but Gareth Bale is available after recovering from a muscle strain.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)