I think they don’t do it just to hurt me and watishista Katie Ann. We’ve long been hankering for a cheese ball Jey M/Benze-Benze-Benzema collab. Can you just imagine the video? Double the speeding cars & scantily clad mamis. Extra beach, molto club, mucho chiffon, 200% more hilarious macho posturing over poker. It would be bliss. I just wonder whose cigar would be larger? And believe it or not, that isn’t a euphemism.
I see that mischievous look in Marcelo’s eyes. I think he’s going to try to talk Jese into it. If anyone can make it happen, it’s Marcelo.
The team had their final training today. Our wounded ducklings Danilo, Sese, Gareth and James worked out separately on the pitch. Pepe, who is now injured (WTF?!) stayed indoors. Sheesh.
Benítez: “The team are in good shape but the race isn’t won on the first bend”
by Alberto Navarro | Photographer: Angel Martinez
“Málaga are a well-organised team and have a very clear playing style”, 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 game against Málaga. The manager looked ahead to the encounter which will take place in the Santiago Bernabéu: “When I started rotating the squad I spoke about making changes and taking it one game at a time. We have to focus on Málaga, they are a good side and you could see in their game against Barcelona that they are well organised and have a very clear playing style. We need to be focused and very alert because these kinds of teams can surprise you and you need to know how to respond”.
“We’re familiar with Javi Gracia and with the information we’ve obtained from watching their matches we know they are a good side, who play positive football and the only thing they’re lacking at the moment is a bit of good fortune in front of goal. They are a well-organised team and the league table doesn’t do them justice. We’re up against a good side that know what they’re doing”.
Top spot in La Liga
“The numbers have been good so far but a race isn’t won on the first bend. We’d be making a mistake if we pushed ourselves too hard now in order to improve our numbers. It will all come down to the last ten games. The team are in good spirits, we’re full of confidence, and are in good shape to face what we have ahead of us now. But this is only the beginning”.
“Being top has a noticeable effect on the atmosphere around the dressing room and that can either be helpful or misleading. Things have gone well for us and we need to be very alert to hold onto our lead, not underestimate opponents and stay focused. Real Madrid and Barcelona are always the favourites because they are two great teams. This is the start of the season and we need to set the foundations so that the team are in good shape heading into the final ten matches. We need to continue getting good results and keeping our spirits high”.
“I know he’s going to score loads of goals, that’s all there is to it. If he can’t provide us with goals, we also have Karim, James, Jesé, Bale, Isco… We have to make chances and hit the target knowing that Cristiano Ronaldo is going to score a lot of goals. Cristiano is still getting plenty of shots on goal. You get chances and a lot of the time it’s the keeper who denies you. I was speaking with him 20 minutes ago. His figures in front of goal are excellent, he’s in great form and if he doesn’t score in a given game, that’s not a problem because we think he’s a phenomenal player”.
“If you know anything about football then you understand that the most important player on the pitch is the one capable of scoring at any moment, and if you feel that it will be a tricky match, then you don’t take that player off. As Cristiano Ronaldo is the one who scores most frequently, it’s only logical that I wouldn’t take him off. As he’s such a good player what I like about him is his knack for hitting the target”.
“The assessment has been positive and it’s important to look at it in context. A lot of our players were away on international duty and played high intensity games. The fact that the team are playing two matches per week means we have to make the most of the squad’s depth and it also means we’re doing well. Overall things look very positive because given everything that has happened, and in spite of all the injuries, we’re doing a good job”.
“I wanted a well-organized team that would push forward and stay alert in defence. We are achieving that vision so far.”
“What we’ve achieved in terms of defence is down to the players and the goalkeeper ultimately. I was looking for a well-organised team that would push forward and stay alert in defence. We are achieving that vision but this is just the beginning and we need to fine-tune things even more. There is plenty of room for improvement in defence and attack”.
Stats and analysis
“Every team has an infinite amount of data to look through these days. For me the priority is the subjective side of things, which is focused on what we can see in front of us. We can reinforce that with statistics. The issue then is figuring out how to interpret the stats to your advantage. In that regard we try to be strict with ourselves. For example: what side passes the ball the most in the final third of the pitch? Sometimes you find that it is one of the teams at the lower end of the table and they’re only there because their keeper knocks the ball long into the opponents’ half. Statistics like that are no use to me. What matters is being able to put them into context. Cristiano Ronaldo, Lucas Vázquez and Carvajal have spectacular statistics”.
The injury list
“The players out with injuries are recovering well. Pepe had a niggle after the match against Athletic Club. We’re assessing now whether he’ll be able to play tomorrow or not and whether it’s worth playing him if he says it’s still bothering him. When it comes to injuries I’m always cautious. They’re doing well, working well and they’ve all told me they’re on the mend. If they improve they could feature in Wednesday’s game or the match on Saturday”.
“We all know that he’s a great player and it’s important to have competition in that position. Whenever we can rotate players we’ll do it. Rotations are not just done for the sake of it though. We know Luka will always do a good job for us and whoever comes in to fill his place will try to play at his level. It’s not an easy task because he is one of the best midfielders in the world”.
“The games can’t be used as a means of deciding whether to rotate or not depending on the rival. What matters most is assessing how the player is. It’s not a case of this game being an opportunity to rotate the squad, but rather it depends on the player himself. He says he’s alright because he wants to play so, with that on board, we’ll make our decision. This is not the game to rotate him but we could still do it”.
Using different systems
“When I was in Italy they would say I never changed my system. I was too attack minded there and here I’m too defensive. Systems need to be altered to suit the characteristics of the players and the match in question. I watched last year’s game against Athletic Club and decided to set up with a 4-3-3 system to increase my players’ chances of winning, but as the game went on we began to alert things and were able to address the issue”.
“During the preseason you fine-tune things and we spent more time working on different systems then, but then when the season starts, and you have so many fixtures to contend with, you spend less time working on them. We’ve spent less time working on tactics with Real Madrid than we did with Napoli as the players’ characteristics are different”.
“When a player like Raphael does well it’s because he has been working so hard. That hard work reinforces the quality and potential he already possesses naturally. The competition with his team-mates helps him develop and play even better. He’s doing a good job at a very important team. His numbers are impressive”.
His work timetable
“I usually get here early and leave quite late. I enjoy the work, it’s not a hard work for me. I love that I get to do this for a living. In the beginning I always slept here. The staff take great care of you, you get up and start work without there being any problems. I sleep at home now and get here around 8:30 in the morning”.