Zinedine Zidane said Real Madrid's first defeat since his return can be partly explained by a lack of motivation.

Madrid lost 2-1 at in-form Valencia on Wednesday, Goncalo Guedes and Ezequiel Garay scoring before Karim Benzema's consolation header.

Los Blancos had won their two previous matches under Zidane, although they needed Benzema's late strike to down bottom side Huesca at the weekend.

Madrid are 13 points behind league leaders Barcelona but 11 clear of fifth-placed Valencia, leaving them with little to play for.

"They will try to finish the season in the best possible way," Zidane told a news conference.

"We are going to spend a few months in which we will talk about many different topics.

"It's true that, maybe in these games we lack some motivation.

"But these players are professionals and when they put on the shirt of this team they know they have to go for it and they do it."

Zidane reiterated his previous comments that he does not regard the closing weeks of the season as an audition for his squad.

"This is not an exam at all because these people are Real Madrid players," Zidane added.

"We are going through a complicated moment. We must also live the bad moments, it will not change anything."

Valencia are now unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions and within a point of the Champions League places, with speculation over Marcelino's future earlier in the campaign now forgotten.

"We have been at a great level, with defensive balance," Marcelino told reporters. "We had many chances, but scoring goals is always the most difficult. We have to be proud of our players.

"When you play against an opponent of this level, if you do not take advantage of your opportunities, they have them and they do. We have done a great defensive job.

"I do not like to talk about tactical battles. The team has been at a great level, we have been getting into the rhythm of the game. The second half also started very well. Solidarity and playing as a team were our strengths."