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Leagues: La Liga

Zidane demands faltering Madrid work harder

Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane slammed Real Madrid’s poor starts and lack of intensity as the European champions slumped to a 1-1 draw against Eibar on Sunday to drop points for a fourth consecutive game.

Zidane was a player the last time Madrid drew four straight games 10 years ago, but Los Blancos were punished for familiar failings as a slow start allowed Fran Rico to head Eibar into a sixth minute lead.

Gareth Bale levelled soon after, but without the injured Luka Modric, Real lacked the creative spark to break down the visitors after the break.

“We have to train with greater intensity, starting with me, I am the coach,” said Zidane.

“Now there is an international break and when the players return we have to change because we can’t continue like this.

“We always react (in the second-half), but we need to not react and instead act from the start.”

Two more dropped points see Real fall behind city rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga on goal difference.

Barcelona can usurp both sides from the Spanish capital later on Sunday with victory at Celta Vigo.

And Zidane was particularly irked having called on Real to start on the front foot after a poor first-half snapped a 16-game La Liga winning streak in their last home outing against Villarreal.

“The first 45 minutes of this game and against Villarreal were identical.

“What we are going to do when the players return is work harder and look for solutions.

“I believe in hard work and the quality of this team. I don’t think it is an attitude problem, but something is wrong.

“I think we lacked intensity and aggression in the individual battles.”

Madrid’s director of institutional relations, Emilio Butragueno was even more stinging in his uncharacteristic criticism of Real’s stars.

“The players weren’t inspired in any sense. They didn’t create chances, apart from one for Bale.

“We weren’t clear in our ideas, fluid and the we lost the individual battles. Eibar deserved the draw.”

Injury problems compounded Madrid’s disappointment as Modric will be sidelined for a month after undergoing knee surgery on Sunday morning.

James Rodriguez had been named in Zidane’s starting line-up, but was replaced by Mateo Kovacic after suffering a minor muscle problem in the warm-up.

The top scorer at the 2014 World Cup is now a doubt for Colombia’s World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Uruguay in the next week.

Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane also came off at half-time, but Zidane is hopeful Varane will be fit to lead France in their World Cup qualifiers against Bulgaria and the Netherlands.

“We hope that he recovers quickly and it is nothing more than a knock,” added Zidane.

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