MADRID (Reuters) – Under-fire Rafa Benitez said Real Madrid needed to be more consistent and also accused his players of easing off in games ahead of Sunday’s La Liga clash with his former club Valencia.
The Spaniard is the most successful coach in Valencia’s history. He led them to La Liga titles in 2002 and 2004, when he also won the UEFA Cup, and is sure of a warm welcome when he walks out at the Mestalla.
At the Bernabeu, though, he has been regularly subjected to whistles by fans who have been unhappy with Real’s performances and there has been debate in the media over his future.
“There is a lack of consistency and the way to achieve that is through work,” Benitez told a news conference on Saturday.
“The fans have always applauded players who gave their all like (Jose Antonio) Camacho, Juanito (Gomez) and Santillana and that is what I want in each game…that we give 100 percent.
“There are matches when we have done that and others when we lose concentration,” said the coach.
Real are three points behind leaders Barcelona and victory would draw them level. But below-par displays in important matches, including a 4-0 hammering by their arch rivals, have turned some supporters against Benitez.
He said the worry was over mentality and not a lack of fitness.
“It is not a problem with their legs,” said Benitez. “We are an attacking team and we need to control the game but when we don’t have the ball then we are suffering.
“We need to achieve the famous word that I used at the start and which (former coach Carlo) Ancelotti has also used which is ‘balance’. At times we are not giving everything to fight back.”
Real face a struggling Valencia that have yet to win in three league matches under new coach Gary Neville and are 10th in the table.
“They are under pressure because they have not had good results despite the change of coach,” said Benitez.
“It will be a highly-charged tempo and that will help their team. They have young players with ambition who will be motivated and it will be very difficult.”
(Reporting by Tim Hanlon, editing by Tony Jimenez)