Jose Mourinho has attacked the physical condition of his players after Real Madrid slipped off the pace in La Liga with a 1-0 loss at Real Betis on Saturday.
An early goal from Benat Etxebarria handed Betis an unlikely win and forced Mourinho to respond to criticism that Real will not be able to challenge Barcelona for the title this season.
The Spanish champions have now slipped eight points behind Barca, who travel to Levante on Sunday, and Mourinho fired back at claims that he should take reponsibility for the loss, insisting that a midweek fixture should not impact professional players.
"When we win, we all win, but when we lose, the coach loses," Mourinho said. "Why is it my fault?
"I try to be fair and objective, and when my team lose, I do not seek excuses or blame other things. Obviously some players played Wednesday who could not play today.
"Obviously there are other teams that have an easier match calendar but we are talking about top professionals and you have to take into account mental toughness, ambition and spirit.
"A player of 23 or 24 years should be able to play two games in four days. As always, because I speak out, and I'm the only one who has spoken out, I'll be the bad guy."
Real dominated possession for much of the game and were unfortunate to have a penalty appeal denied after Nosa appeared to handball in the Betis area.
But Mourinho conceded that Real were simply 'outplayed' and he commended the hosts for responding to last week's 5-1 loss at Sevilla.
"After a difficult week and some conflict with his players, the fans of Betis have helped [coach Pepe Mel's] team win," he said. "I've congratulated the Betis players because they left everything on the pitch and fought with a spirit of sacrifice.
"[The referee] was hugely at fault for a wrongly-disallowed Benzema goal and a clear penalty in the closing minutes. But [Betis] deserve my respect because they outplayed Real Madrid.
"We started well, but only a little bit better than we played for the rest of the game. It's possible that we could finish the season 11, 13 or nine points behind Barcelona. The liga race is still open, but we're neither optimistic or pessimistic. I can't focus on a single competitin."