Madrid - Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has dismissed criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo and some of his team mates over the Portugal captain's 30th birthday party thrown hours after last weekend's 4-0 La Liga drubbing at Atletico.
Ronaldo and players including James Rodriguez, Pepe, Marcelo and Sami Khedira were widely condemned after photographs from the festivities leaked into the media.
Ancelotti said the players' professionalism could not be questioned and he was confident the La Liga leaders would soon return to top form starting with Saturday's game at home to Deportivo La Coruna.
"The party issue for me is not an issue," Ancelotti told a news conference on Friday.
"I have never given an opinion on players' private lives and I am not going to start today," added the Italian.
"The problem is that some think this might affect the professionalism and seriousness of the players.
"In that sense, I would note that this squad and these players have demonstrated their professionalism many times.
"My job is to evaluate the professionalism of the players and about that I have no doubt. There is no lack of motivation."
Ancelotti acknowledged that the world and European champions had lost some intensity and focus since their Spanish record 22-match winning streak came to an end with last month's defeat at Valencia in La Liga.
He said there was plenty of time for the players to turn things around and he expected to see an improvement against Deportivo and in Wednesday's Champions League last 16, first leg at Bundesliga side Schalke 04.
"I understand the fans' frustration very well because it is exactly the same as ours," Ancelotti said.
"We were all frustrated after the (Atletico) match but that's a motivation to try to improve things. Sometimes criticism is helpful to prompt a positive reaction."
Ancelotti, who has a number of regulars including Rodriguez, Luka Modric, Sami Khedira and Sergio Ramos out injured, said he would field more or less the same team on Saturday as he had against Atletico.
New signing Lucas Silva would not start against Depor but might come off the bench, he added.
Real are a point clear of second-placed Barcelona with just over half the season played, with champions Atletico a further three points adrift in third.
Barca host struggling Levante on Sunday, before Atletico play at mid-table Celta Vigo.