'We are better than last year' - Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho sees improvement as his side set about catching Barcelona

The Portuguese trainer is happy with the evolution of his team and has been impressed with their football in pre-season, ahead of tomorrow's Primera Division clash at Zaragoza
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho claims his side are playing better football than last season and says he is looking forward to tomorrow's Primera Division opener against Zaragoza at La Romareda.

The Portuguese coach saw his team win all seven of their pre-season friendlies, only to lose narrowly to fierce rivals Barcelona in the two-legged Spanish Supercopa, when the Catalans came out on top by 5-4 on aggregate following epic encounters at the Santiago Bernabeu and Camp Nou.

Madrid, second to Barca in each of the last three campaigns, will now look to go one better this season and Mourinho knows his side cannot afford to slip up against Zaragoza, as they did at home late last term when they surprisingly lost 3-2 to Javier Aguirre's relegation-threatened outfit.

"In the Spanish championship you can't afford to drop points," Mourinho said at the pre-match press conference on Saturday.

"On the first day of the season there can be surprises and I have warned my players that; they need to change the chip following this period when they didn't know whether they would be playing or not [due to the players' strike, which caused the first round of matches to be postponed]."

With agreement reached for this weekend's games to go ahead, Mourinho hopes his side can pick up where they left off in pre-season.

"I prefer to look at the positives from pre-season [rather than at the Spanish Supercopa defeat to Barcelona] and I have been very pleased with my team - we are playing better than we did last season," he said.

Nevertheless, the Portuguese expects a tough match on Sunday.

"Zaragoza are very organised; I don't know if they will play with four or five defenders but they will be very hard to beat," he said.

"They have a great atmosphere in their stadium and it will be difficult, as it was last year in our first game, against Mallorca [when Mourinho's reign began with a 0-0 draw on the island]."

Madrid face Zaragoza at 20:00 CET on Sunday.