The capital club huffed their way to victory against their relegation-threatened opponents at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the coach was satisfied
Zinedine Zidane admitted Real Madrid lacked fluency in their 2-0 win over Espanyol and said the team “can do much better”, yet he still had saw positives at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Goals from Zidane’s French compatriots Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema saw off the lowly visitors from Barcelona.
There were promising performances from the likes of striker Vinicius Junior and midfielder Federico Valverde, two youngsters of whom much is expected in the coming years.
But it was largely an underwhelming display by a team that ultimately ground down their opponents, Madrid’s pedigree telling in the end despite Ferland Mendy’s late red card.
“Today, we have to be happy because we continue on a good run,” Zidane said afterwards.
“Of course, we can do much better, but we played a very serious game, respecting the opposition, and that is the most important thing.”
Zidane said that 19th-placed Espanyol “do not deserve to be where they are in the table”, and he acknowledged: “I think we controlled our own game, even though we were missing a bit of fluidity.
“Despite this, I’m happy because we scored two goals and didn’t concede.”
He added that he continues to feel pride at coaching Madrid in his second spell in the post, saying: “I am fortunate to be here with them.
“It is they who are fighting on the pitch and we have a very good squad. There is still a lot of work and let’s not forget where we came from.”
After winning three Champions League titles in his first spell as head coach, Zidane is jostling for more silverware this season, and his side are battling Barcelona for LaLiga supremacy, inching ahead of their great rivals at least for a few hours with their latest victory.
Asked about Valverde’s lively display, Zidane said of the 21-year-old Uruguayan: “Fede has a place for many years here because he is demonstrating what he has, he is an important player, like everyone else.
“He is very young; when he plays, he doesn’t have any trouble with the ball and without the ball. And when he plays, he does well.”
Zidane also highlighted his other options in midfield, including Luka Modric, who came off the bench late on, and Isco, who was not used.
Modric, who was celebrating his new status as a Ballon d’Or winner this time last year, still has a major role to play for Madrid, as Zidane stressed: “He knows that occasionally he’ll miss a game. But physically he can hold up very well.”
In attack, Madrid continue to rely on the goals of Benzema, but they have a major talent in 19-year-old Brazilian Vinicius Junior.
His pace and dribbling caused Espanyol problems at times, and Zidane is sure the goals, in short supply for now, will come.
“The important thing is his work. What he has done, he has done well, both in attack and in defence,” Zidane said. “I don’t ask anyone for goals. That is a consequence of what the team does.”