Benitez hanging on at Madrid

2015-11-23 16:10
Rafael Benitez (AFP)

Madrid - Real Madrid fans vividly showed their dissatisfaction, frantically waving white "goodbye" handkerchiefs and loudly jeering.

It was a clear message to coach Rafa Benitez: It's time for you to go.

Benitez's situation is becoming increasingly unbearable since a 4-0 loss to Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Saturday, and another setback could mean the end of the line.

Madrid president Florentino Perez also has been targeted by the club's demanding fans, but ultimately it will be Benitez who gets the blame for the team's recent struggles.

In the local media, there is already widespread talk about Benitez's replacement - Zinedine Zidane.

The name of the former France great, who is coaching Madrid's "B'' team in the third division, is certain to surface every time Madrid fails. Not that he is in a hurry to get promoted.

"I'm coaching Castilla now. Benitez is the coach of the first team and things are fine like that," the 43-year-old Zidane told Spanish media.

"I still have a long way to go."

Some fan have also called for the return of Italian coach Carlos Ancelotti, who helped Madrid win its 10th European title two seasons ago.

And there have been some reports that Fabio Capello, who is currently unemployed, could be the next in line.

For Benitez to have any chance of keeping his job, he needs to find a way to get Madrid back on track.

"We are all responsible and now we have to show unity in order to win the next game and give the fans something to be happy about, which is something we failed to do (against Barcelona)," the 55-year-old Benitez said.

"We need to get over this result and focus on the next match as soon as possible."

Things were just fine for the coach until two weeks ago, when Madrid lost for the first time in a Spanish league match at Sevilla. Madrid had been leading the league and was winning games with ease despite a series of injuries to its regular starters.

It advanced to the knockout stage of the Champions League with two rounds to go, and is likely to finish first in its group ahead of Paris Saint-Germain.

Benitez defends himself by pointing to the team's numbers this season.

Madrid's only bad result prior to the consecutive losses was a home draw against Malaga, when goalkeeper Carlos Kameni was the man of the match after stopping everything Madrid's strikers threw at him.

Madrid had won four of its first five league games, outscoring opponents 14-1. It drew at Atletico Madrid 1-1, then won the next three matches by at least two goals.

Among the key players injured early in the season were Keylor Navas, Sergio Ramos, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. The game against Barcelona marked only the second time that Benitez had all of his players available.

After the Barcelona loss, many criticized Benitez for starting with a lineup that left the team too exposed. But before the game, others had criticized him for playing too defensively.

"With the match now over, we can clearly say that the lineup didn't work," said the coach, who was hired by Madrid less than six months ago. "I pick my teams by trying to manage the group as best as possible."

Many said Benitez lost control of the squad and that players were not fully behind him. Last week, the coach was forced to public deny rumors that some of the top players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, organized a meeting to demand changes in the team's tactics.

"We're always completely behind the coach," left back Marcelo said after Saturday's loss. "We're going to get ourselves out of this situation. We're not going to lose our heads, we're going to train hard and look at where we went wrong."

Madrid's next game is Wednesday at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

The points will not mean much because Madrid is already through to the next round, but the game certainly will still be crucial for Benitez.

Read more on:    real madrid  |  la liga  |  rafael benitez  |  soccer


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