Zinedine Zidane says Real Madrid not out of La Liga title race yet
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has rejected any suggestion his side have already blown their La Liga title chances after just five games, predicting that other teams near the top will also have their own dips in form over the course of the campaign.
Following Wednesday's 1-0 home defeat to Real Betis, reigning champions Madrid find themselves down in eighth place, seven points behind leaders Barcelona, who have a 100 percent record so far.
Asked ahead of Saturday's La Liga game at Alaves whether he felt the gap would be terminal for his side's title chances, Zidane said: "We do not think that. This has just begun.
"If I had a seven-point lead, I would not be saying the season is over. Each team will have a bad period over the season. In football, everything can happen. This is long -- we have 33 games left to play."
Madrid won comfortably in their two away games so far at Deportivo La Coruna and Real Sociedad, but at the Bernabeu they drew with Levante and Valencia, and lost to Betis.
"This is a bad moment for us, but I am very happy with how we are playing," Zidane said. "The press can talk about things, but we are not going to change what we are doing. Before I was lucky, now I am jinxed. But I am still lucky, don't worry. I love my job and enjoy it every day. This will turn around, we are not worried about that."
Madrid created 27 scoring chances against Betis, with Cristiano Ronaldo -- back after his five-match suspension -- having 12 attempts on goal without scoring. Zidane said he would be more worried if his team were not making opportunities at all.
"The most important thing in football is to make chances," he said. "I'd be worried if we did not have chances, with the players we have.
"But once we make them, we will take them. Our previous game, we scored three times. I am a positive person, so if tomorrow we have chances, we will score them, nothing else."
Madrid will be without Toni Kroos for the trip to Alaves after the Germany midfielder missed training on Friday with a rib problem, but Zidane said it was not connected to the muscle issue that forced him out of last weekend's game at Real Sociedad.
"It is nothing to do with San Sebastian," he said. "After the [Betis] game he felt something in his ribs, and as always we do not want to take risks. Hopefully it is not too much, and he is back with us on Tuesday [at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League]."
Left-back Marcelo is another absentee after tests confirmed a "grade two tear" in his left thigh muscle, joining Karim Benzema, Mateo Kovacic, Jesus Vallejo and Theo Hernandez on the injury list.
"It is always annoying when you are missing players, but we can do nothing about that," Zidane said. "Over the season this can happen. We must deal with it at this time."
Zidane's son Enzo, 22, joined Alaves on a free transfer from Madrid last season, and has since made two substitute appearances as his new side have lost all five games so far without scoring once.
The former France international admitted to some emotion over what would be the first time he coached a team against a family member.
"I hope he does not score," he said. "We are both competitive -- we will both do everything possible to win tomorrow. I don't know about it being strange, but I am happy for him. He is doing well, although the team have not had good results so far.
"It will be more emotional, but for me tomorrow is Alaves against Real Madrid. I will not be giving him any advice about football -- I am not his coach anymore."
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