Zinedine Zidane: Real Madrid players are all hungry to win La Liga title
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has denied claims his stars lack the hunger for domestic competition, saying they are "tremendously motivated" to win La Liga.
Questions about their league form were asked as they dropped points against Sevilla, Valencia and Las Palmas but eased through in the Champions League against Napoli.
It means Barcelona have taken over at the top of the table but, speaking ahead of Sunday's home game against Real Betis, Zidane said: "We have not won La Liga for a long time, five or six years, so it is a tremendous motivation for us.
"We cannot, every three days, play the same way, with the same intensity and determination.
"But that is normal. We are motivated for two things -- the Champions League and La Liga, which is very important. We want to win it this year.
"There are games when people might think we have not given importance to the league, but that is not the truth."
Zidane said he was likely to rotate his team against Betis, who have not won at the Bernabeu since 1998-99, but stressed that did not mean players coming in -- likely to include Nacho Fernandez, Isco, Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio -- were hungrier than his biggest stars.
"All the players have hunger and they like to win, all of them," he said. "Tomorrow is a game when maybe some other players who play less will start.
"But I do not view it like that. I want to have the full squad ready, and then choose the best XI for each game."
Madrid produced a fine performance in last weekend's win at Eibar, but Zidane denied their recent inconsistency was to do with tactics.
"We can play in many ways, and do it well, three up front, two up front, four in the centre," he said. "We can change system, but the important thing is the attitude."
Asked if it was possible to play 4-4-2 with Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Zidane said he could do so but preferred to keep them all closer to the opposition goal.
"Who do you bring back to the line of four?" he said. "Gareth can come back and play in the line, but I prefer to play with the three of them up front. That is where they are most effective."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan