MADRID - Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said that city rivals Atletico Madrid should be classed as title favourites this season ahead of their La Liga meeting on Saturday.
Table toppers Atletico remain the league's only unbeaten side after 10 games with 26 points from a possible 30.
Heading into the derby they sit six points ahead of fourth-placed Real having played a game fewer, and Zidane conceded that their start to the campaign means it is Diego Simeone's side who should be considered the team to beat this term.
"Yes, definitely, they should (be considered title favourites)," Zidane told a news conference.
"That's what they're showing on the pitch. They top of the table and they've always been a competitive outfit in that sense. We know them well.
"We want to win every game and especially this one as it's a big game. We won the league last year and we want to defend our crown, and we'll do that until the end."
The Frenchman also sung the praises of Atletico's in-form midfielder Marcos Llorente.
The 25-year-old came through the youth setup at Madrid before joining their city rivals in 2019.
"He's not surprising me with his performances," Zidane said.
"Llorente is a top-class player and he's showing another facet of his game right now that he didn't have when at Real Madrid. We always knew he was a quality player and I'm pleased to see him doing well."
Zidane, who welcomed back captain Sergio Ramos in Wednesday's Champions League victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach, said that midfielder Federico Valverde and fullback Dani Carvajal will also be in contention for a return to the starting team.
The champions will, however, be without attacking trio Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz as well as midfielder Martin Odegaard. (Reporting by Joseph Walker Editing by Toby Davis)