Toni Kroos admits Real Madrid’s players feel frustrated they have not used the inconsistency of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to establish a hefty lead in La Liga.
But Madrid have not taken advantage. They missed out on the chance to go top last weekend by drawing at home to Real Betis, just after Barcelona were beaten by Levante and Atletico drew against Sevilla.
Zinedine Zidane’s side got back on track with an emphatic 6-0 win over Galatasaray in the Champions League on Wednesday, a morale-boosting win ahead of Saturday’s visit to Eibar in La Liga.
“The last few games have been better,” Kroos told AFP. “More and more players are coming into form which is good because at the start of the season only a few players were in form which made it difficult.
“To be honest my feeling in the league is that we should be a few points clear by now. But we aren’t and we have to keep fighting for that first place.
“You have to be frustrated because we have missed out but we are using that as motivation because we are still in contention. We can’t change anything, we have to concentrate on our game.
“We will focus on the others when we play them but we know when they lose points, it gives us a chance and we have to take our chance. We have to get some points ahead.”
Madrid’s thrashing of Galatasaray means they are virtually qualified from Group A and the victory also launched 18-year-old Rodrygo onto the international stage, after the Brazilian scored a hat-trick.
He is the second youngest player to hit a hat-trick in Champions League history behind Madrid’s former striker Raul while his first two goals came before the seventh minute, making his the fastest brace ever in the competition.
Rodrygo joined Madrid from Santos last summer in a 45-million euro deal and has been given his chance on the right of the front three, in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale.
“It’s impressive and I’m happy for him,” Kroos said. “It’s not just about the goals, he helps us in lots of ways. He works very hard on the flanks and he doesn’t lose the ball.
“He is very mature for his age, not only in his game but off the pitch as well. I have no doubt these three goals will not change anything about his character.”
Kroos has found a new midfield partner too in recent weeks in Fede Valverde, the 21-year-old Uruguayan who has established himself ahead of Luka Modric in the starting line-up.
“He is amazing,” Kroos said. “I really love this player. To come here is not easy and to play like he is at this age means he has a lot of quality. I’m sure he has a great future here for many years to come.”
After Madrid face Eibar at Ipurua, Barcelona play at home to struggling Celta Vigo, who appointed Oscar Garcia coach on Wednesday after Fran Escriba was sacked earlier this week.
Celta will be hoping to lift the mood, and Barca too, after they followed up their defeat by Levante with a goalless draw against Slavia Prague in front of a restless Camp Nou.
“We know that we need to give more, especially when we play at home,” said Frenkie de Jong. “I can understand that when we’re not winning at home, it’s normal that people criticise. We’re not running away from that, we know that we have a lot to improve.”
Atletico are also looking for a change in momentum as they host Espanyol on the back of three games without a win. “The first person responsible is me,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone, after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.