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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Real Madrid were 'stronger' with Morata, Pepe and Rodriguez, insists Ronaldo after Tottenham defeat

Portuguese forward made his comments after the Uefa Champions League loss at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday. 

Cristiano Ronaldo believes there is no reason to be "alarmed" following Real Madrid's disappointing start to the season. Tim Ireland / AP Photo
Cristiano Ronaldo believes there is no reason to be "alarmed" following Real Madrid's disappointing start to the season. Tim Ireland / AP Photo

Cristiano Ronaldo has said Real Madrid are missing the experience of former players like Pepe, Alvaro Morata, and James Rodriguez following the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night.

Real Madrid, who became the first club in the Uefa Champions League era to successfully defend the title last season, continued their troubling start to the current campaign when they were outplayed in a 3-1 loss to Spurs at Wembley Stadium.

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The result comes off the back of a surprise defeat to Girona in the Primera Liga on Sunday, which leaves Madrid, also the reigning Spanish champions, trailing fierce rivals Barcelona by eight points.

So often associated with heavy spending in the transfer market and for assembling the biggest stars in world football, Madrid experienced a more low-profile off-season this summer.

Indeed, Madrid enjoyed a net profit of more than €70 million (Dh300m) as striker Morata and full-back Danilo left for the Premier League to join Chelsea and Manchester City respectively, while midfielder Rodriguez joined Bayern Munich on loan. Pepe, a defensive stalwart for 10 years at Madrid, left on a free transfer to join Turkish club Besiktas.

Meanwhile, recruitment was minimal, with only youngsters Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid and Dani Ceballos from Real Betis arriving at the Bernabeau.

Madrid's starting XI on Wednesday featured 18-year-old Achraf Hakimi and second choice goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, while the average age of the team's substitutes was 20-years-old.

"The players who have arrived have a lot of potential but Pepe, Morata and James made us stronger and the players are younger now," Ronaldo told reporters after the defeat.

"Our squad isn't worse, but it's less experienced and experience is very important. But it's no excuse and we shouldn't be alarmed."

Madrid only need one more point from their final two games to qualify for the last-16 but must win both matches and hope Tottenham drop points twice to avoid finishing second in the group and drawing a group winner in the next round.

Ronaldo dismissed any talk of a crisis, pointing to the team's enormous success under manager Zinedine Zidane, with whom they have won seven trophies in under two years.

"People forget about the good times very quickly. I never talk of a crisis, you can lose three or four games but there's never a crisis. We can't forget what we've achieved," Ronaldo, 32, said.

"This is a bad run but we want to turn things around and I'm sure we will. This is only the start of the season, we still have a lot of time to improve and I'm convinced we will."

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