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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Zinedine Zidane proud of Real Madrid's emphatic response after poor start

Spanish champions chasing fifth consecutive victory in all competitions against Alaves on Saturday

Zinedine Zidane talks to the media before Real Madrid's match against Alaves at the Bernabeu on Saturday. Reuters
Zinedine Zidane talks to the media before Real Madrid's match against Alaves at the Bernabeu on Saturday. Reuters

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said on Friday he is proud of his side for their resurgent recent form as they target a fifth consecutive victory in all competitions against Alaves on Saturday to continue their charge back up the Primera Liga table.

The champions returned to third place in the standings on Wednesday for the first time since the start of December after beating Leganes 3-1 in their game in hand, climbing above Valencia and moving 14 points behind leaders Barcelona.

Real have also thrashed Real Sociedad 5-1 and Real Betis 5-3 within the last two weeks as well as beating Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in the first leg of their Uefa Champions League last-16 tie, with their recent form contrasting with their limp start to the campaign.

They are seven points off Atletico Madrid in second and with Diego Simeone's side facing a difficult trip to Sevilla on Sunday, Real have the opportunity to put further pressure on their local rivals.

"I'm proud of everything we're doing at the moment, we are showing character and personality, and scoring 26 goals in the last six games is lovely," Zidane told a news conference on Friday. "We want to continue on this great run and tomorrow we want to put in a good performance."

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Alaves have also turned a corner after an abysmal start to the season saw them lose nine of their first 10 games, with new manager Abelardo Fernandez leading the Basque side to four wins from their last six to move 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

"We know they've changed coach and have a squad that never gives up, but right now we're in very good shape," added Zidane.

Real have a kinder schedule than Atletico between now and the international break which begins on March 19, with Simeone's side visiting Barca a week after their game with Sevilla, while Zidane's side face Espanyol away after the Alaves game followed by a home game against Getafe.

Zidane also apologised to midfielder Dani Ceballos for bringing the player on for the final 30 seconds against Leganes.

Ceballos, a €10 million (Dh45m) signing from Real Betis last summer, has made only two Liga starts since joining Madrid.

"I felt very bad about it and I'm very sorry and I've told him so. I don't like to bring a player on for 30 seconds for nothing," Zidane said.

"He knows he hasn't had many minutes but he has kept on working hard, he's stupendous. I like him a lot and he has to keep on working."