Lopetegui to remain in job for Clasico

Real Madrid's Marcelo (right) scoring his team's second goal against Viktoria Plzen to win 2-1 and end their five-game winless streak.
Real Madrid's Marcelo (right) scoring his team's second goal against Viktoria Plzen to win 2-1 and end their five-game winless streak.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno has reassured embattled coach Julen Lopetegui that he will be on the touchline for Sunday's LaLiga Clasico at Barcelona, but the fans are ready to pack his bags for him.

The European champions' unconvincing 2-1 Champions League Group G win over minnows Viktoria Plzen was greeted with boos and whistles on Tuesday, and even Butragueno could give no guarantees to the former Spain coach beyond the Nou Camp game.

"Lopetegui will be in the dugout with absolute normality. In these type of situations, it's important to stay calm," he told reporters, in reference to reports that Santiago Solari, coach of Real's B team, was poised to take over.

"We hear a lot of rumours, but we are dealing with the situation as normal. I hope the team can put in a good performance against Barca."

Lopetegui also refused to be drawn on whether he would be in charge against the LaLiga champions despite Butragueno's vote of confidence, saying "that is not a question for me".

"You do not change course in one day, but today can be a turning point for us," he added. "We have to gain tranquillity little by little."

The 52-year-old, however, knows all too well that he is living on borrowed time, with the club enduring their worst start to a league campaign since 2001.

Real at least ended their five-game winless streak, including three straight defeats, although the team's lack of confidence was apparent throughout.

Barcelona, even without the injured Lionel Messi, will relish the chances that Plzen were presented with by their hosts.

Karim Benzema opened the scoring to snap a goal-less run of eight games dating back to Sept 1 and Marcelo's strike was enough to see off the Czech champions, but at no point were Real comfortable, with Plzen pulling one back through Patrik Hrosovsky.

Benzema admitted to Spanish daily AS afterwards that he deserved his fair share of the blame for the turmoil engulfing Real.

"I have to make more goals," the French striker said.

"It is not always the coach's fault, it is also the players' fault. We have to do more on the field."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2018, with the headline 'Lopetegui to remain in job for Clasico'. Print Edition | Subscribe