The team had their final training session today before heading off to Valencia. All 23 players and Marcos Llorente of Castilla were involved.
Benítez: “Valencia haven’t lost at home for a year and we’ll have to give it everything at Mestalla”
by Javier Garcia | Photographer: Victor Carretero
“I’m expecting the players to be at their best and am confident our quality and intensity will help us win all three points”, he added.
Rafa Benítez spoke to the media in the Real Madrid City press room before taking the Whites’ final training session in preparation for their clash with Valencia. Madrid’s head coach looked ahead to the game at Mestalla: “We know they’re under pressure, because results maybe haven’t been what they’d hoped for since changing coach. The crowd at Mestalla really get the atmosphere going and that helps the team. Valencia haven’t lost at home for a year and we’ll have to give it everything at Mestalla”.
“Valencia are a side full of desire and with young players, and they’ll be really up for it. It’ll be a tough game. I’m expecting the players to be at their best and am confident our quality and intensity will help us win all three points”.
“I’ve said more than once that the time to make assessments is at the end of the season. La Liga is a competition that’s all about showing consistency, and it’s important to have stability and calm. What counts is the assessment made at the end of the season. You need to have that calm to get results and achieve your goals”.
The players’ attitude
“I’m not going to talk about individuals. As a lifelong Madridista, the feeling I have is that the team have spells where they struggle to keep up the same level. The Madrid fans have always had idols such as Di Stefano, Juanito, Pirri…players who dig deep, show fighting spirit and give it their all. There are games in which we’ve done well and others in which there are spells in which we seem to switch off. And in terms of improving in that department, I’m the first to step up and take responsibility. We have to keep on working as hard as possible to ensure that results go our way. The team are in the Champions League, are in there in La Liga and the end of the season is the time for judgement. I’m certain that the players are going to give it 100% at Mestalla”.
Consistency over the 90 minutes
“It’s not a question of stamina, because at Villarreal we put in an exceptional second-half performance. It’s down to the characteristics of the team. We have attacking players, we need to be in control of the game and when we don’t have the ball we find it tougher. We have to achieve that famous word that I’ve used since the start and that [Carlo] Ancelotti used too: balance between the attacking and defensive sides of our game. That’s the way forward. The players are also well aware of those moments where we don’t have control of the game and are going to give 100% to make sure they do”.
“There have been games such as those in Bilbao, Éibar, the first half at the Calderón or those in the Champions League, where the team have done well. Then there have been others where we’ve paid the price for switching off. We have to show our ability to react. The match at Mestalla will be a special occasion for me. It’ll be a very tough match, because Valencia didn’t lose at Mestalla in 2015. Last year Madrid had a tough time there. On a personal level, it’s only right and proper that I should express my gratitude to Valencia and to the city”.
“What’s important is to keep up the intensity in attack and defense.”
“We understand intensity as something that applies not only to attack but also to defence. It’s about the team having the ball and playing with pace, but it’s also about them looking to win it back quickly and showing aggression when they don’t have it. That’s intensity. We’ve had good games in which we’ve had that and others with spells in which we’ve lost control that have hurt us. The other day, Cristiano took the team by the scruff of the neck. What’s important is to have control of the match and to keep up the intensity in attack and defence”.
Issue concerning James
“It’s a private matter. He’s a good, sensible kid and he’s given me his explanation, and there’s nothing more to say. We have to wait and see”.
Must-win game at Mestalla?
“I have complete confidence; I’m not thinking about slip-ups. We’re going to do well, the team are going to put in the level of performance that we expect. We need to put in a display that enables us to get the three points. I’ve arrived at Real Madrid with many years’ experience and quite a few trophies under my belt, hired by a president who has a project that has to be given time, and the time to make assessments is at the end of the season. My responsibility is to focus on each game, do a good job and try to win matches”.
“That’s Real Madrid; we have 24 players in our squad and when some play, others can’t. I’m always asked about players not playing; that’s something that’s impossible to avoid. Isco is a fantastic player, yesterday I congratulated him because he trained very well. I pick the best 11 for each game and all the players have a chance if they train and work as hard as possible”.
“As a coach, what I look for is quality. The problem is how to interpret what quality means. I like players with quality, which is normally a combination of commitment, technical quality and an ability to make the right decision in each moment”.
The following players were called up for the match:
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas, Kiko Casilla and Rubén Yáñez.
Defenders: Varane, Pepe, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo and Danilo.
Midfielders: Kroos, James, Bale, Casemiro, Kovacic, Modric and Isco.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lucas Vázquez, Benzema and Jesé.
The Baby & Karim were chosen to sign for the fans at the Hotel Hospes Palau de la Mar.
Here’s some more New Year’s Eve & Christmas photos. I especially love the picture of Caio & Clarice when they were kids. His little fake mustache is hilarious! His birthday is New Year’s Eve and I’m sure he was thrilled his sister dug that one up! And babies Liam & Cloe! So cute! As is Enzo.
Looks like Sergio Jr. wasn’t as thrilled with his presents as his papi claimed. Looks like he’s about to throw that thing to the ground in the last photo. Toddlers! (And where is Marco?)