Real Madrid’s players are over their early season malaise and have regained their focus coach Jose Mourinho said on Saturday ahead of the team’s trip to play La Liga leaders Barcelona.
The champions head off to the Nou Camp on Sunday eight points adrift of their arch-rivals after a wobbly start to the league campaign in which they have lost twice,the same number of games they lost over the whole of last season.
“I have confidence in my players,as always,” Mourinho told a news conference. “When they work hard obviously I have more confidence in them,complete confidence.”
Mourinho was highly critical of the attitude of his players after their defeats at Getafe and Sevilla,but they have responded since then winning four matches on the trot in all competitions,netting 14 goals. “I think you can see the players have understood they had to change,” he said. “They understood they had to be more motivated,to be more focused and that the way the team was,would have led to a negative end to the season. It’s a credit to them. They have changed,and in this way it is easier for good things to happen.”
There have been a steady stream of media stories about rifts within the dressing room over the last month,with time on the substitutes’ bench for Spain defender Sergio Ramos and Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil being reported as some kind of ‘punishment’. In response,Mourinho said the decisions were all part of the normal routine of a team.
“There is no need for drama when a player is on the bench,he said. There are 24 in the squad so that means there are 13 who don’t play,and every time there is someone on the bench there is a furor. I am paid to decide on the lineups,I try to do it to the best of my abilities. Full stop.”
A defeat would leave Real 11 points behind Barca who dropped only 15 and 18 points during their title winning campaigns in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Real dropped only 14 themselves last season.
“All I am looking for is continuity more than the result,” Mourinho said. “I am worried about the way we play,the ambition,the commitment,and good individual performances.”
“We need to get back to the level of last season. We lost that level of play,and all I am worried about is recovering it,as this game is important in this sense.”
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How they match up
* Barcelona are top of the Spanish League with 18 points to Madrid’s 10 (6th on the table)
* Madrid have already dropped eight points. In their previous two title-winning campaigns,they haven’t dropped more than 15 points in total.
* In over-all head-to-heads,Madrid lead Barca by four wins,having won 69 to the latter’s 65. In a total of 165 matches,31 have ended in a draw.
* Last season,Barca won at the Bernabeau 2-1,while the match at Camp Nou ended in a 2-2 draw.