Zidane stresses need for Real Madrid strength in depth after James rages at substitution

James Rodriguez was not happy to be taken off against Leganes but Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has explained his decision.

Zinedine Zidane has underlined the importance of keeping his Real Madrid squad fit following James Rodriguez's tantrum at being taken off against Leganes.

The Frenchman made nine changes to his side from the 3-0 win over Alaves on Sunday, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all rested, but the LaLiga leaders maintained their two-point advantage over Barcelona with a 4-2 win.

James - who impressed from the start in midfield - opened the scoring in Butarque and set up Alvaro Morata's third goal to make it 4-2, but he punched the back of the Madrid dugout in anger after being replaced by Isco in the 72nd minute.

Zidane says he understands James' frustration but pointed to matches against Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich over the next week as proof of the importance of keeping his players fresh.

"I have an amazing group that works really well. I need 24 players, it's necessary to win important competitions," he told Movistar +.

"I understand it [James' reaction] perfectly but I have to make changes. We're reaching the end of the season well. Every game is different. What we're doing is good but now we have to think about what lies ahead."

Madrid raced into a 3-0 lead inside the first 23 minutes but offered Leganes a way back into the match as they conceded twice in quick succession before half-time.

Morata restored a more comfortable advantage not long after the break - the Spain striker credited with the goal despite his header deflecting off Martin Mantovani - but Zidane accepts that Madrid must sharpen their performances.

"It was a little bit of a strange game but that's how it happened," said the head coach. "In the end we had better control in the second half once we had the fourth goal.

"Did we relax after 3-0? It shouldn't happen, it was a difficult moment, two goals in so few minutes. We can always improve and we have to improve. It's the beautiful thing about football: you never know what's going to happen.

"The important thing is to get the points before the derby."