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Nov 5, 2012

Mourinho pleased with Modric and Essien

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho praised Luka Modric and Michael Essien after both got on the scoresheet in Saturday's 4-0 La Liga win over Real Zaragoza at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

• Blog: Empire or legacy?

With Xabi Alonso suspended and Sami Khedira injured, Essien, 29, and Modric, 27, started as Madrid's midfield pair.

And, although they did not always have things their own way, each ended the game having claimed their first goals for the Spanish champions.

Mourinho believes the pair's performance shows that his side have more strength in depth in the centre of the park than in recent seasons.

"Alonso and Khedira have been two important and key players for the last two and a bit years," Mourinho said. "In the past two seasons, when one of them was missing we were in trouble, and if they were both out, we were desperate.

"Today, without them, the team did enough to win. It was not easy for the players who replaced them, because the team is a bit unbalanced and they were a bit alone in the midfield. In the end each of them got a goal."

Modric received special praise from the former Chelsea manager, who pointed out that it takes time for a player coming from the Premier League to adapt to the different style in Spain.

"I liked how he plays, he works well for the team, is well integrated, he is adapting," Mourinho said. "It is very different playing in England compared to Spain and for Tottenham compared to Real Madrid. But he is a great player, he is adapting and I would be delighted if he keeps going as he is."

With Sami Khedira looking unlikely to recover from his thigh problem in time, Modric or Essien should start Madrid's key Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Saturday's visitors Zaragoza had long spells of possession in the second half, hitting the crossbar and having a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside, which lead to some whistles from the Bernabeu crowd.

Mourinho admits that, with Alonso missing, the team have not played as well as they are capable of, but is happy with the three points ahead of Tuesday's bigger test against the Group D leaders.

"I did not enjoy the match very much, we can and must play better," he said. "The important thing is to win and do it calmly, but we have to play better than we did.

"In possession we were very far away from each other. Without playing a brilliant match we won 4-0, a result a little tough on Zaragoza, who deserved more. But it is good for us for two days before playing a difficult match."

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