- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t scored a goal from open play in three games, a run that has Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

The glitch isn’t exactly a goal drought because Ronaldo did score one from the penalty spot against Sevilla. But the dry period has coincided with Real Madrid’s two-game losing streak after a 40-match unbeaten run.

Cristiano is fine,” Zidane said Friday. “He might have a bad day here and there. So what? He will always be a difference-maker in my mind.

“We have lost a couple of games, but there is no need to go overboard. Nothing is broken. Actually, it might have been a good time to lose two straight, in order to get going again and build up some confidence.”

Madrid leads the Spanish league with 40 points from 17 matches, holding a one-point lead over surging Sevilla. It was Sevilla that beat Madrid 2-1 on Sunday, after Ronaldo had converted a penalty to give his team the lead.

Defending champion Barcelona is third in the league and two points behind Madrid, which has a game in hand because of its trip to Japan to win the Club World Cup in December.

The loss in Sevilla was followed by another setback on Wednesday, when Madrid lost 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals - again raising questions about the after-effects of playing in the Club World Cup.

“I’m not thinking about that at all,” Zidane said. “As in life, you can’t always win in football. You are going to have some bad days, and you need to overcome them to push ahead. It happened last year. We are going to reverse this.

“We aren’t playing worse football than before. We just had a few bad plays that our opponents took full advantage of. The locker room is fine. The good news is we have another game tomorrow (in the league against 13th-place Malaga), and we are looking forward to it.”

Zidane said Ronaldo has lately been playing out of position at striker, a move that somewhat surprisingly has not translated into more goals for the Portugal forward. Ronaldo has 12 league goals this season, two behind Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

“He played up top against Celta, but his favorite position is on the left wing, and that will not change,” Zidane said. “The problem is more when he doesn’t score, since we have grown used to him taking over. Cristiano will always be subject to criticism. He is used to it.”

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