Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria believes that last night's impressive 4-1 win over Galatasaray shows that Los Blancos can cope without sidelined Cristiano Ronaldo in the short term, using the opportunity to improve collectively and become less reliant on the Portuguese superstar's individual brilliance.
Ronaldo's absence with a thigh injury did not affect Carlo Ancelotti's side in their latest Champions League outing, securing top spot in Group B despite being reduced to 10 men early on as Sergio Ramos was issued with a straight red card.
Di Maria took his chance to shine with Ronaldo missing, scoring late on as the Argentine winger added to strikes from Gareth Bale, Isco and Alvaro Arbeloa as Roberto Mancini's men were swamped late on despite having a numerical advantage.
Madrid are likely to be without their top scorer for another fortnight, but Di Maria believes that Ancelotti's side still have scope for improvement and can maintain their fine recent form despite losing a key player.
He told reporters: "We must continue to grow as a team. We have a big lead [in the group] and that is very important for the coach.
"I'm happy with the win [over Gala]. The team sacrificed themselves in a way, we got through to the second round, which is what we wanted."
The 25-year-old was widely expected to be a peripheral figure at the Bernabeu this season following Bale's record-breaking arrival but has featured regularly, making 17 appearances in all competitions and scoring four times.