Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has insisted that he cannot 'blame the players for anything' after Los Blancos slipped to a ninth La Liga defeat of the season on Wednesday night, and the first since the Frenchman returned to the club last month.
Valencia prevailed 2-1 at the Mestalla, outclassing Real and going 2-0 up through Goncalo Guedes and Ezequiel Garay, before Karim Benzema pulled back a 93rd minute consolation.
Real, who have now lost as many league games this season as in the previous two seasons combined, struggled in the final third, but Zidane claims the effort was there.
"We started the game strongly with good possession, pressing high up. We just needed to get that first goal. I can't blame the players for anything, they really tried hard," Zidane said after the final whistle, via RealMadrid.com.
"We played against a top team and it was an even game. It's a defeat and defeat always hurts.
"We struggled to create chances, get shots off and come up with anything in the final third. We needed a little bit more near the opposition goal. The team fought to the end."
Zidane also defended Marcelo after a poor performance in what has been a disappointing season for the Brazilian left-back, although a suspension in the next game after picking up a yellow card means that home grown Sergio Reguilon will get the nod next time out.
"He is doing well, it's Marcelo after all," Zidane commented.
"I am going to count on him, he is a key, important player and I like his style of play. Next game will be Reguilon's turn because of the ban. He is training well and keeping his focus."
That next game will be at the Santiago Bernabeu against mid-table side Eibar on Saturday afternoon.