The team had their final training match before meeting Athletic Bilbao tomorrow at San Mames.
Castilla’s Marcos Llorente, Borja Mayoral, Odegaard and Abner joined the first team. Danilo & Sergio, although injured, trained separately. James & Gareth continue their recovery.
“There is one indisputable player here and that’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He makes the difference”, added the Real Madrid boss.
Rafa Benítez spoke to the media outlets assembled in the Ciudad Real Madrid press room on the eve of the La Liga clash against Athletic Club (Wednesday, 9pm CEST). The coach, who congratulated “the Spanish national basketball team and, in particular, the Real Madrid players who contributed towards the triumph”, looked ahead to the match against the Spanish Super Cup holders: “We know that Athletic are a difficult opponent. Real Madrid lost there last year. We have to be focused, continue doing things as we have been up until now and increase our intensity levels. It will be a tough game that can help us maintain and build on our confidence levels”.
“Raúl García and Artiz Aduriz are undoubtedly their danger men up front. They are a tight team that work hard and have a clear game plan. I’m expecting a difficult match. I have great respect for them and have thereby prepared very well for this encounter and gone over a video of them with my players. Real Madrid is always pushing to break records and we’re concerning ourselves with details that don’t concern Real Madrid fans that much. The supporters want to know that we’re well prepared and competitive”.
His past experiences in San Mamés
“I’ve never played in San Mamés but my teams have. I’m fortunate that I’m going there with Real Madrid this time, and not Extremadura. They are difficult opponents but this team is capable of winning in any stadium and we have to show that tomorrow. I’m concerned about all the games and work hard on all of them, but I’m not scared of any team and much less so now I’m in charge of Real Madrid. My only worry is preparing well for games”.
The new records Ronaldo and Navas can set
“I’d be more excited about winning the match. I’m not obsessed with keeping clean sheets, but rather winning games and playing well. If we win and also happen to set a new record then I’ll be even happier. The team need to be competitive in order to win and if new records are set then we’ll be even happier”.
“It isn’t that certain yet. He was training on the pitch just now and he’s not going to be at 100% fitness by tomorrow. Regardless of what we do, Athletic will play with as much intensity as they always do. We still haven’t decided who will play. We have an idea but will make the decision later. Casemiro can play an important role, but so too can Kovacic, Kroos and Modric”.
“I want to get the best out of the excellent group of players we have.”
“There is one indisputable player, that is Cristiano Ronaldo, and the rest are very good footballers who have to give it their all. Training is designed to work on developing the players’ potential and ability. The first thing we coaches consider is the impression we get during training. This is a special group of players which possess a very high level of ability. The players are made aware of that in the personal conversations I have with them. I speak with Gareth Bale and he knows that what we need is to be competitive and win games. Cristiano Ronaldo makes the difference. We have an fantastic team and a player who can make the difference and needs to continue doing so”.
“The stats against Shakhtar show that he covered the most ground. He manages his exertions very well, regulating them depending on the game and how he might be feeling. As of today he’s physically fine. At no point have I ever thought about favouring anyone apart from the team. As such the player who scores 60 goals in a season has to be considered. Karim Benzema is scoring goals and is a top quality player who can adapt. He, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale have to spread themselves out up front and share the work load between them so they can continue to threaten in attack”.
The best La Liga start in years
“It’s always good news to get a head start, but you don’t win races at the first bend. This is a marathon, there are a lot of matches and I want us to be in good shape heading into the last ten games. We have to be competitive and understand that every squad member is capable of playing. We want to get used to there being competition within the group, that will help us win”.
“He has been sensational in training. I’m the first to give him confidence and I have showed my faith in him. I have to create a competitive atmosphere amongst the players. There are certain players who have an edge in terms of their experience. There are certain younger players with a lot of talent who need to work hard and as the fixtures unfold I’ll play them one at a time. The games themselves also influence these decisions. You have to adjust specific positions. The younger players have to push hard to reach the same level the most experienced squad members are at”.
“I speak to all the players frequently. I really like having one-on-one conversations with them. Today we all spoke together. In the case of the younger players I want to increase the likelihood of them becoming better footballers and I want the senior squad members to be competitive. I also want everyone to give it their all. Real Madrid fans know that the players have to give it their all and it’s my job to tell them to give it 100% and that the collective is more important then whatever is being talked about in the press room”.
Options to counteract pressure from opposition
“We need to have passing options in order to play out from the back from one side or the other. The other day our midfielders and centre backs played too close together. We’ve been working on that and will try to fix the problem”.
“I must have had 20 private conversations with him already. I can speak with him in English and he likes that because he can understand all the nuances of what I’m saying. We both have clear ideas and are in agreement about everything. I want to get the best out of this excellent group of players we have. There is more competitiveness now and that can only be good news for the team”.
Whistles in the Bernabéu
“I’ve been going to the Bernabéu for years and the supporters demand to see movement, hard work, maximum effort as well as quality play. Granada kept pressing us and grew in confidence as the game went on. Their chances on goal came from our mistakes and incorrect decisions. Even so, we still won without conceding and had 20 shots on goal”.
“It will be a fantastic match and we’ll have to dig deep to come away with a good result”, added the defender.
Pepe looked ahead to Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club tomorrow in San Mamés (9pm CEST) in an interview for the Bwin website: “It’s difficult to make a prediction, it’s going to be a great game, a fixture the fans will enjoy”.
“We have to be ready and we hope, with all humility, that we’ll win. We are going to be up against a team that shows a lot of character, a lot of hunger and we’re expecting a very tough match. We’ll have to work hard and give it our all if we’re to come away from there with a good result”.
Scoring in San Mamés
“We’re hoping to score and to be full focused so as to help the team, but we’ll have to work extremely hard in order for that to happen. I’m hoping our forward players perform well so they can get on the score sheet just like they did against Espanyol”.
“He is a top quality player and a powerhouse. He works hard for his team and we have to be ready to play well and face off against an extremely motivated striker, who is enjoying a great run of form”.
“I feel good and am eager to contribute a lot to the team.”
“I feel very fulfilled as a player after extending my contract with the best club in the world. I feel good and am enjoying my role in the team. I’m still eager to add a lot to the team and it’s with that mentality that I work towards helping my team-mates”.
The team’s objectives
“The aim is to be a solid, strong side. We have to get an understanding of the manager’s mentality as quickly as possible. We need to work together and be united, show plenty of character and look to win as many titles as we can. We want to be happy with what we’ve done at the end of the season”.
“He really likes working on tactics. We’re still getting used to his training methods”.
“James and Bale are two great players and we’ll definitely miss them. But we have top quality players in the squad who are going to come in fully motivated and eager to help our club”.
“We all provide a lot to the team. I think all the players are good enough to play”.