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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Zidane and Ramos urge Real Madrid to 'stay calm' after poor start to the season

Primera Liga champions trail rivals Barcelona by seven points having failed to win any of their three home matches.

Zinedine Zidane watches on from the dugout during Real Madrid's 1-0 defeat at home to Real Betis on Wednesday. Francisco Seco / AP Photo
Zinedine Zidane watches on from the dugout during Real Madrid's 1-0 defeat at home to Real Betis on Wednesday. Francisco Seco / AP Photo

In the space of just five games Real Madrid have gone from firm Primera Liga title favourites to trailing rivals Barcelona by seven points ahead of Saturday's trip to Alaves.

When Madrid swept a crisis-ridden Barca aside 5-1 in the Spanish Super Cup last month, Zinedine Zidane's men were expected to romp to the title.

Instead, disappointing home draws against Valencia and Levante were compounded as Madrid failed to score for the first time in 74 games when Real Betis became the first side other than Barca or Atletico Madrid to win at the Bernabeu in the Primera Liga for six-and-a-half years on Wednesday.

"We have dropped seven points in a small number of games but there is a long way to go and we can't throw everything we have done until now in the bin because of two or three average games," Zidane said.

"I know that many people don't like this work when things go wrong, but we have to accept it and be calm. The league is very long and we will stay calm within the group because we will lift ourselves and we know we will have better days."

Going on the road this weekend may come as a relief to Madrid, who have shone on their travels this season in wins at Deportivo La Coruna and Real Sociedad as well as beating Barca and Manchester United in the Spanish and Uefa Super Cups respectively.

"It seems like if we don't score early at the Bernabeu we start to get anxious," midfielder Isco said. "It is something we have to improve and it is better that it happens now at the start of the season when there is more room for error."

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While Madrid have endured a rough start to their title defence, Alaves are suffering a nightmare start to the season, losing all five matches so far and already sacked manager Luis Zubeldia.

"We need to turn the page and think about the next game," Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said. "We have come back from many points behind to win the league before. We need to stay calm because they are many games and points still to play for."

There won't be a Zidane family reunion at Mendizorroza as Enzo Zidane, Zinedine's oldest son, can't feature for Alaves due to the terms of his loan move from Madrid.

Madrid can reduce the gap on Barca to four points before the leaders travel to Girona for a first ever Catalan derby between the two in the top flight.

The most enticing clash of the weekend takes place at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday lunchtime as third hosts second when Atletico Madrid welcome Sevilla.

Diego Costa is expected to be paraded on his homecoming after Atletico agreed a reported club record fee of €55 million (Dh241.6m) to bring the man that fired them to the title in 2013/14 back to the club from Chelsea. However, Costa won't be able to play until January.

PRIMERA LIGA FIXTURES

All times UAE (+4 GMT)

Saturday
Atletico Madrid v Sevilla (3pm) 
Alaves v Real Madrid (6.15pm) 
Malaga v Athletic Bilbao (8.30pm) 
Girona v Barcelona (10.45pm)

Sunday
Espanyol v Deportivo la Coruna (2pm) 
Getafe v Villarreal (6.15pm) 
Eibar v Celta Vigo (8.30pm)
Las Palmas v Leganes (8.30pm)
Real Sociedad v Valencia (10.45pm)

Monday
Real Betis v Levante (11.pm)

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