Real Madrid’s coach, Zinedine Zidane, says his players used the criticism thrown at them in recent weeks to their advantage in an emphatic 2-0 La Liga win on Saturday.
The Spanish La Liga defending champions beat city rivals Atletico Madrid in the first of the 2020/2021 Madrid derby clashes.
Less than two weeks ago, Real Madrid had been smarting from shock defeats by Alaves and Shakhtar Donetsk.
They had then faced a triple whammy of tough-looking fixtures against Sevilla, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Atletico Madrid, with Zidane’s future on the line.
But they won all three matches, returning to the form they showed in the latter stage of last season when they stormed to the title.
They are now in third place, three points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid, albeit having played a game more.
“We have been hurt by some of the things that have been said. But they have made us stronger,” Zidane told a news conference after his side beat their neighbours with a Casemiro header and an own goal from Jan Oblak.
“Criticism is part of football and you have to learn how to cope with it.
“But the most important thing is that we believe in what we are doing. And today we proved that Real Madrid know how to play.”
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The Frenchman was in a euphoric mood and praised many of his players, with a special mention of midfield duo Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
He said they were in the same form as when they led Real Madrid to three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles.
But Zidane emphasised that Real Madrid still had a lot of work to do to maintain consistency.
“I’m happy with everything we did in the game.
“We pressed them all over the pitch and didn’t let Atletico Madrid into the game. It’s been a great week. I’m so glad for the players because they believed in themselves,” he added.
“We built on what we had done in the last two games and competed very well for the majority of the game.
“But there’s nothing to celebrate because we haven’t won anything yet.”