Zinedine Zidane 'tired' of 'negative' Real Madrid coverage
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has closed ranks ahead of Saturday's La Liga game at home to Villarreal, suggesting that media criticism of his team's recent performances was unfair and damaging.
Sunday's 2-2 La Liga draw at Celta Vigo left Madrid 16 points behind runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona, and left Zidane himself admitting that their chances of retaining the title were slim.
This was followed by Wednesday's 2-2 Copa del Rey draw at home to Segunda side Numancia, meaning Madrid have won just one of their last four games in all competitions, leading to the first sustained criticism of Zidane's reign.
Ahead of hosting Villarreal, who have drawn at the Bernabeu twice in the last three seasons, Zidane told the pre-match news conference that he and his players must ignore pundits and reporters saying negative things about the team which were just not true.
"What we must do ourselves is not look and listen to what is being said," Zidane said. "That is difficult these days but we must try and avoid it. Everything being said about Real Madrid these days is negative, and I do not see things like that, as many do not.
"The situation is what it is, and we must take the positive, that we are still alive in everything, and move forward. We are not going as bad as people say.
"I am tired of hearing all this. It is easy to say that everything is bad, you [media] know very well it is not all negative here. But it is very nice to say bad things about Real Madrid, it sells more."
Barcelona have used the January transfer window to make the club-record signing of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, while Atletico Madrid now have Spain internationals Diego Costa and Vitolo strengthening their squad.
Zidane said he accepted some Madrid supporters might think it strange their club are not moving in the market this month, but the issue was it was difficult to find an available player who would actually make a difference.
"I can understand if fans think it is strange [no signings]," Zidane said. "But if you have a player that you want, that is available, that will bring you more than you have here, it cannot be bad [to sign him]. But I do not have that. I have very good players, and do not see anyone who can change all that. You can change, but that would be in June. Now, no."
Saturday's game will bring Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and other first team stars to the Bernabeu for the first time since their 3-0 Clasico defeat just before the winter break. Zidane said he hoped the notoriously difficult to please Blancos hardcore got behind their players now.
"We want the fans to come to the stadium to support their team," he said. "As they always have done. I would tell them not to listen much to what is being said, as not everything is negative. We need the fans, just as when we are going well they should not get too high, and in moments a bit difficult we need the fans with their team."
Tuesday's clear the air meeting before training had lead to a positive change in mood among the squad, Zidane maintained, and the team would soon regain consistency in their play and get confidence back, with February's Champions League round-of-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain looming.
"You always get something positive from these conversations," he said. "Then you must show it on the pitch. What we are missing is not good play, it is consistency necessary to recover the confidence we must have. That comes from winning games. Llately it has been difficult to do that, to win games, but we will keep going. We must find our best form if we want to go through [v PSG]. The idea is to get that consistency, that positive energy, within the month. I think we will do that."
Club captain Sergio Ramos [calf] and centre-forward Karim Benzema [hamstring] remain out injured, although Raphael Varane is expected to start against Villarreal on Saturday despite missing some training midweek with a muscle issue.
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