Rafa Benitez has insisted that his Real Madrid players still “believe” in his management ahead of Sunday’s trip to Eibar in La Liga.
Los Blancos responded to consecutive defeats against Sevilla and Barcelona with a 4-3 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, despite being 4-0 up at one stage, but the Coach was adamant his side exuded “confidence, mentality, character and intensity” in Ukraine.
“[The win at Shakhtar Donetsk] was positive enough,” he said at a Press conference.
“I wanted a reaction and we kept the ball, used it well, made chances, and scored four goals.
“Then we made two mistakes from set-pieces which put Shakhtar in the match, but I’ll take the first 75 minutes of cohesion and harmony.
“I’m delighted to have a quality player like James. I hope he plays a lot of games, scores a lot of goals and helps us to lots of victories and trophies. As I said before, having James is a privilege.
“I value what I see in training, and [Karim Benzema] worked fine [on Friday]. I ask him to focus on football. I can’t make a bigger assessment than that.
“As professionals, the players understand that the Coach has to make decisions.
“We had a voluntary training session after we returned from Ukraine, and many of those who haven’t played much lately, like Lucas Vazquez, were present.
“We, the Coaches, are here to help them maintain their level.
“[Eibar] are a good team in a good run of form so we expect a difficult game, but we also proved against Shakhtar that we could score four goals away from home against strong opponents.
“If we do well, we can go another 14 games without being beaten.
“I didn’t tell Bale to play on left or Ronaldo to play in the middle.
“Both are free to move forward, as long as they assume the duties of the position they’re in.
“Both are free because they’re better when our opponents don’t have a reference to go by.
“I don’t agree [Toni Kroos’ introduction ruined Madrid’s game against Shakhtar].
“He entered the game [in Ukraine] and did well, always being precise with his passing.
“We made a mistake with the penalty and another in conceding the second goal, but Kroos had nothing to do with either.
“[On Raphael Varane’s injury], you never know what the recovery dates are, but I hope he’s back within a month.
“Regarding the situation of [Sergio] Ramos, he’s being assessed by our doctors. Either way, I have full confidence in Nacho [Fernandez] and Pepe.
“[Jose Luis Mendilibar] is a professional Coach and makes professional analyses. I see him and his team in a positive light.
“We must stay focused until the end, play with intensity and take our opportunities.
“So far we’ve seen good phases for 45 minute and 75 in Ukraine. I’ll only take our best.
“[On Denis Cheryshev leaving in January], I don’t speak of possible incomings and outgoings before matches.
“We conceded two goals against Shakhtar from set-pieces. If we work well defensively, we’ll go back to being the team who have conceded the fewest goals in Europe.
“[On Mateo Kovacic], the problem is that, with all quality players, Mateo showed his quality in the first few games but I had to take him out of the team to avoid burnout.
“Now he’s back to a good level. This is a good thing and it helps maintain the competitiveness of the team.
“We all make mistakes, starting with me, but in football, valuations are not made within three months.
“For now, I’ll take the 14 matches in which we were undefeated, despite injuries and our reaction in Ukraine from the other day.
“It means that the team believe. There was confidence, mentality, character and intensity [in Ukraine].”