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Jan 22, 2013

Khedira feels Real have turned corner

Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira says the team have turned a difficult situation around after discussing internally where things had been going wrong.

• Blog: Khedira revving Madrid engine

Jose Mourinho's side appeared in disarray before the winter break, conceding six goals in their last three games of 2012, while losing to Celta Vigo and Malaga and drawing at home to Espanyol. They then returned after Christmas with a helter-skelter 4-3 home win over Real Sociedad.

Since that game, Madrid have improved appreciably, winning three of their last four matches, scoring 11 times while conceding none, and appeared to be back to their very best in Sunday's La Liga 5-0 thrashing of Valencia.

Germany international Khedira said the squad had worked hard to put things right, especially by tightening up defensively.

"We were in a difficult situation and we were not getting good results," Khedira said, "but we spoke among ourselves and we have worked hard in these last weeks. We are on a good path. We are more compact on the field.

"When you lose games, you have to change things. We had to play tighter. We have improved especially in defence. Then with Cristiano (Ronaldo), (Angel) Di Maria and Mesut (Ozil) we have a great counter. We have worked on our strong points, as Mourinho has taught us. It could be that players who were not at their maximum level before have got there now."

Khedira was speaking at Madrid's Valdebebas training facility during preparations for Wednesday's Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg at Valencia, which sees the teams meet for a third time in eight days.

Even with his side 2-0 up from last week's first leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and Valencia reeling from Sunday's 0-5 hammering at Mestalla, Mourinho is unlikely to make wholesale changes to his starting line-up. Ricardo Carvalho could come in at centre-back, while Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Marcelo are other options to freshen things up.

Khedira said Madrid would not just sit back and look to defend their lead at Mestalla.

"We won the first leg 2-0, which is a comfortable advantage," he said. "To keep a clean sheet is important but it is also important to score. We must set out to attack and give everything to win the game. Like every game, it begins 0-0."

Should Madrid progress as expected they will next face either Barcelona or Malaga, who meet in La Rosaleda on Thursday with their tie balanced at 2-2 from the first leg. It was too early yet to think about the semi-final against either side, Khedira said.

"We do not need to think about the next round," he said. "We must concentrate on this moment. It matters little to us if we need to face Malaga or Barca. They are both strong. When the moment comes we can then talk about that."

The former Stuttgart player, feted recently in the local media for his improved attacking contribution after providing two goals and two assists in his last seven games, said the backing of his coach and team-mates were what mattered to him.

"I feel very good at the moment, in perfect shape," Khedira said. "For me the most important thing is that the coach and technical staff are happy with my work. I am in a good moment, but I am going to aim to keep this level and be consistent."

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