MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid found an unlikely ally in Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, who hit out at Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp after he labelled Madrid’s Alfredo di Stefano stadium a training pitch.
Klopp was unimpressed at having to play Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Di Stefano, where his side lost 3-1.
Madrid have played at the Di Stefano, which is situated in their training base, since last June with renovations taking place at their usual Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Barca travel there on Saturday in the Clasico as the La Liga title race heats up, but Koeman rejected the notion that the pitch could play a part.
He suggested that the fact there will be no fans in attendance will make a far greater difference.
“It’s disparaging to a big club like Madrid (to say it is a training pitch), they’ve chosen the time to do renovation works at their stadium and they’ve chosen well,” Koeman said.
“Madrid are used to playing on that pitch and the opponents have to play there, and that’s that.
“For players the tough thing is playing without any fans.”
The Catalans sit just one point behind league leaders Atletico Madrid, with Real a further two points back in third.
However given the amount of games remaining this season, Koeman insisted that a loss for either side would not be decisive in the title run-in.
“The result won’t be decisive, there’s a lot more games to go and any side will have difficulties in winning all their remaining games. Having said that it will be a boost for the winners to push on,” he said.
Koeman welcomes back defenders Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto for the game, however long-term absentees Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati remain out.
(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Toby Davis)