Ronaldo defends post-derby comments

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has backtracked over comments he made in the wake of his side’s 1-0 defeat to local rivals Atletico, insisting he was not criticising his teammates.

The 31-year-old was clearly upset in the wake of the defeat, a result that all but ended Madrid’s hopes of closing the gap on league leaders and bitter rivals Barcelona.

Speaking to the assembled press in the mixed zone after the clash, he said: “It annoys me that they say that Cristiano has dropped his level, and that is why Madrid have dropped their level.

“If they were all at my level, we would be first.”

The Portugal international has since moved to clarify his comments, claiming he was referring to his side’s fitness and injury issues this season.

He said: “I don’t know if it is for bad preparation at the start of the season, but we are having many injuries and that is hurting us.

“I don’t want to knock anyone, no teammate, but when the best are missing … I like to play with [Gareth] Bale, [Karim] Benzema and Marcelo.

“I don’t want to say that Jese, Lucas [Vazquez] or [Mateo] Kovacic are not good players – they are very good – but to win a competition, you need to have your best players.”

League leaders Barcelona will have the chance to stretch further ahead at the summit of La Liga on Sunday evening, when they welcome Sevilla to the Nou Camp.

Following 26 fixtures, Real have collected 54 points, recording 16 wins, six draws and four defeats.