x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Alonso: Real are still a work in progress

Xabi Alonso thinks "kinks have to be ironed out" before Real Madrid can class themselves as a realistic threat to the dominance of champions Barcelona.

Xabi Alonso thinks "kinks have to be ironed out" before Real Madrid can class themselves as a realistic threat to the dominance of champions Barcelona. The midfielder, who will miss tonight's home match against Xerez through injury, has been a regular in Manuel Pellegrini's starting XI since his £30 million (Dh180m) move from Liverpool, turning in solid performances as Real won both of their league games to date.

However, Real looked vulnerable in their league opener, a 3-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna at the Santiago Bernabeu. A better performance followed with a 3-0 win over Espanyol in Barcelona last weekend, but the team's defensive vulnerability returned in the 5-2 Champions League win at FC Zurich in midweek. Eleven goals in three games suggests all is well in the Real camp, but the goals conceded column makes for less encouraging reading, and Alonso concedes there is work to be done.

"The team looks really good," he told club website. "We have the potential, but we can improve in many aspects and several kinks have to be ironed out. We are doing well, but we must still improve because we are very ambitious." Real's Champions League win came at a cost with Alonso collecting a leg injury that is set to rule him out for seven to 10 days - making him a doubt for Madrid's following Primera Liga match with Villarreal next Wednesday.

Xerez began the season with a 2-0 defeat at Mallorca and lost again last weekend, going down 1-0 against Athletic Bilbao in what was the Andalusian club's first ever top-flight match at home. Now the promoted team face the daunting prospect of a trip to Madrid in the third round of matches, but striker Antonito says anything is possible. "If we think it's impossible to go there and get points, we might as well stay here," he said.

"The important thing is for them to have a bad day and for things to work out well for us." * With agencies Real Madrid v Xerez, KO 9pm, Aljazeera Sport + 2