Lopetegui shrugs off sack rumours, insists he will fight on

MADRID • Amid reports of his imminent sacking, Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui insisted yesterday ahead of the Champions League home match against Viktoria Plzen that he will not be defeated easily.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the 52-year-old Spaniard said: "I am looking at the situation the same as ever. I am carrying out my day-to-day (duties) as usual. If you want to see a defeated coach, then don't look here.

"In my view, we have a game tomorrow that we are looking forward to and we will go about it with total commitment and drive.

"I learnt to fight at this club. That is the DNA of this club. I will fight to revert the situation. I am not thinking about anything else other than tomorrow's game."

He also denied that today's game, or the Clasico clash away to Barcelona in LaLiga on Sunday, could be his last in charge of the European champions.

"I am here right now, I cannot confirm anything else right now. I will be the coach tomorrow," he said.

"I can't guarantee that (he will take charge of the Barca clash)."

When asked what has gone wrong for his team - they slumped to their third straight loss over the weekend - Lopetegui simply answered: "We need to be more effective in both areas."

UNITED WE STAND

We all believe in him, in his work, and that all together we can turn this situation around.

ISCO, Real Madrid midfielder, on the team being firmly behind beleaguered coach Julen Lopetegui.

He does, however, retain the support of his players.

"Julen has the backing of the entire team," captain Sergio Ramos said after Real's 2-1 loss to Levante on Saturday, also their fourth defeat in five games. "We are with him to the death," added Marcelo.

Isco, who was also present at yesterday's press conference, said: "It is not about just me, the squad in general, we all believe in him, in his work, and that all together we can turn this situation around."

Three months into the season, there are few obvious alternatives if the club's president Florentino Perez decides to wield the axe.

Santiago Solari, coach of Real's B team Castilla, could take charge in the short term but to find a suitable and available coach for the long run could prove tricky.

For Lopetegui, it is a must-win game against Plzen, the Czech team that have won only two Champions League matches in their history. Then he needs to avoid defeat at Barcelona, who will be without the injured Lionel Messi.

But the signs are not looking good for Lopetegui. Only one of the last six Real coaches to preside over three consecutive defeats was not sacked. That was Bernd Schuster, whose team had put their feet up after winning the title in 2008.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'Lopetegui shrugs off sack rumours, insists he will fight on'. Print Edition | Subscribe