Sergio Ramos has urged injury-hit Real Madrid to stick together as they prepare to face nearest challengers Celta Vigo at Balaidos on Saturday.
La Liga’s top two go head to head at the end of a week in which Madrid were held to a goalless Champions League draw by Paris Saint-Germain, with coach Rafael Benitez impressed by the display as he was forced to leave out Karim Benzema (hamstring), James Rodriguez (thigh) and Gareth Bale (calf).
The trio could also miss out this weekend, although Luka Modric (thigh) is likely to push for a starting spot after fitness concerns limited him to a late cameo appearance in the French capital.
In the absence of several key players, Benitez’s men have ground out wins, conceding just twice this term to sit top of La Liga ahead of Celta and Barcelona on goal difference.
But Ramos, who played despite a shoulder problem, dismissed suggestions Madrid have been overly defensive, insisting results are the priority.
“This is Madrid. We’re evaluated every three days and whoever isn’t prepared for that should stay home,” he told AS.
“It doesn’t bother me to be called a defensive team. Everything will be weighed up at the end of the season. Here we value trophies and we have to find the best way to get to the end of the season.
“The team must be united. We’re in a period with a lot of injuries, but ultimately what makes Real Madrid great is having a great squad.”
Madrid and Celta are La Liga’s only unbeaten sides, Eduardo Berizzo’s men having made an impressive start to the campaign, beating the likes of fellow high-flyers Barca and Villarreal.
The attacking talents of Nolito and Iago Aspas have proven key, with Berizzo potentially able to call on Andreu Fontas and Dejan Drazic again after Achilles and thigh problems respectively.
Ruben Blanco (shoulder) remains a doubt, with goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez hoping the home support can inspire a repeat of the 4-1 win over Barca last month.
“Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world, they are very good at moving from defence into attack,” he said.
“When we have the ball we need to handle it well and finish our chances.
“We will need support in the most difficult moments of the match, but if we are exciting people and getting them to Balaidos, it means we are doing things right.”