MADRID (Reuters) - A fired-up Zinedine Zidane hit out at Real Madrid's critics on Friday, demanding respect for both himself and his players while insisting they remain in the La Liga title race.
The current champions sit 10 points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid having played a game more.
In an impassioned news conference, Real's French coach lost his usual composure and said it was too early to write his side off and they should be afforded the respect of a team defending their crown.
"What makes me laugh is you ask me why I might be annoyed (at questions over his future)," he said ahead of Saturday's visit to basement club Huesca.
"I don't deserve to be treated like that by the press. We won the league last season and I'd hope for a bit of respect.
"We've earned the right to fight for La Liga this season, at least give us the season. Next season, there'll need to be changes, but this year let us, the team who won the league last season, fight for it this year, too. It wasn't 10 years ago, it was last season.
"Just show us a little bit of respect for what we've achieved. You (the press) say a lot. Why don't you tell me to my face that you want me out of the club, not just behind my back."
Zidane was talking in his first media duties since returning from a period of isolation following a positive COVID-19 test.
"I've been locked in a cage for two weeks, I can't wait to get out and show that I'm going to fight until the end," he said.
Captain Sergio Ramos will once again be absent for an injury-hit Real side, with Zidane naming a squad of just 17, including three goalkeepers and just 12 senior outfield players, for the game.
Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, Federico Valverde, Rodrygo and Lucas Vazquez will also be absent through injury, while Eder Militao is suspended.
(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge)