Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui admits future in doubt ahead of Champions League clash

Lopetegui's Real Madrid face Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday in a must-win game for the under-fire coach. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2018
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Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui admits future in doubt ahead of Champions League clash

  • Real Madrid have lost four out their past five matches and have suffered the longest goal drought in their history.
  • Lopetegui admits he may be out of a job before this weekend's El Clasico against arch-rivals Barcelona.

MADRID: Julen Lopetegui has said he will fight to turn Real Madrid’s stuttering season around but could not guarantee he will be in charge for the Clasico against Barcelona on Sunday.

Lopetegui’s future is in doubt just four months after swapping the Spanish national team for Madrid on the eve of the World Cup.

His side face Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Tuesday, on the back of five games without a win and having lost all of their last three.

“What I’ve learned about this club is to fight, that is the DNA of this club,” Lopetegui said at a press conference on Monday.

“That’s what we’re going to do, fight, both the players and the coaching staff. We know results haven’t been great but we are going to turn this around. We are going to fight.”

Asked if he knew that he would be in the dug-out when Madrid visit Camp Nou this weekend, Lopetegui said: “I’m here now, that’s all I can say. I am the coach at this moment.

“If you ask me what is going to happen in a month or a year, I can’t tell you. We’re focused on the present.”

Madrid’s poor run has left them seventh in La Liga while defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League last month sees them sitting third in Group G.

Key players have offered their support to Lopetegui. Captain Sergio Ramos has said it would be “crazy” to change coach so early in the season while Marcelo insisted the team was “with him to the death” after Saturday’s loss at home to Levante.

“The players are strong,” Lopetegui said.

“They are champions not by coincidence, but because they are strong.

“They have had bad times and bad moments but they have a lot of strength. They don’t get to be champions by believing everything they hear.”


‘No surprises’ about former Premier League duo Nordin Amrabat, Jurado flying high in Saudi Arabia

Updated 13 November 2018
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‘No surprises’ about former Premier League duo Nordin Amrabat, Jurado flying high in Saudi Arabia

  • Amrabat signed for big-spending Al-Nassr in the summer and has scored three goals in eight games
  • Jurado, meanwhile, joined Al-Ahli from Espanyol in the summer and his playmaking ability has resulted in the Jeddah giants succeeding

LONDON: A former Premier League coach is not surprised high-profile imports Nordin Amrabat and Jose Manuel Jurado are flourishing in the Saudi Pro League, believing they have the ability and the pedigree to inspire their clubs to mount a title challenge.
Amrabat signed for big-spending Al-Nassr in the summer and has scored three goals in eight games to propel Jose Daniel Carreno’s side up to third in the table. Jurado, meanwhile, joined Al-Ahli from Espanyol in the summer and his playmaking ability has resulted in the Jeddah giants becoming the second most prolific team in the league. Both clubs are hot on the heels of leaders Al-Hilal and are prepared to pounce should the champions slip up.
Dean Austin, the former Tottenham defender, coached both Amrabat and Jurado at Premier League club Watford and has kept a keen eye on their fortunes.
“I’ve followed their careers closely since I worked with them and I saw they had moved to Saudi Arabia,” Austin told Arab News. “I fully expected them to make a big impact as they are very good players and top professionals. It sounds like they are really enjoying themselves and good luck to them as they both work so hard.”
Amrabat, 31, became Al-Nassr’s fourth costliest player ever when he joined from Watford for £7.65m ($10.05m). According to Austin, he is capable of playing on either flank and has experience of playing in Holland, in La Liga and the Premier League.
Amrabat has said in previous interviews he feels he plays his best football on the left flank, where he can cut in on his favored right foot and have a crack at goal. He is playing on the left in a 4-1-4-1 formation at Al-Nassr.
“I felt he was good enough to play off either flank, but I guess the left might have been his preference,” said Austin. “If he is going to play there, I think you need a really quick, offensive left-back who is prepared to go past him and go on the outside. You need to have the correct balance in the team.”
Moroccan Amrabat was in many pundits’ team of the World Cup at the end of the group stages. His displays helped his team to a 2-2 draw with Spain and saw them narrowly lose out to Portugal.
“He had a good World Cup and I reckon there would have been a few clubs looking at him. He has pace, strength, a great desire and is a really willing worker. He wants to work,” Austin said.
Amrabat played in the same Watford side as Jurado in 2016 and they were reunited when Al-Ahli beat Al-Nassr 2-0 in Riyadh earlier this month. Jurado was taken to Watford and then to Espanyol by Quique Sanchez Flores, the coach who was offered the chance to take the top job at Al-Hilal earlier this year.
Sanchez Flores never made it to the Kingdom, but Jurado, 32, did and he is showing why he played at Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Schalke.
“He is a really good technician,” said Austin. “He is silky smooth and can pass off either foot. From the first day at Watford, you could tell he was seriously talented. He’s clever and a very talented footballer.”
Jurado did not pull up as many trees in the Premier League as Watford hoped and he lasted just one season before returning to Spain.
“He had an indifferent time with us,” said Austin. “He had some good games, but he found it tough in some others. He came to us from Russia and it was not easy to adapt. He found it very quick, but the Premier League is a very difficult league and he probably didn’t show us as much as he would have liked. Sometimes with Jose, it’s about trying to find the right balance of the team to have him in it.”
Al-Ahli coach Pablo Guede is fielding Jurado in a left-sided role just behind Djaniny, the big-money summer signing from Mexico, or as a No. 10 behind Djaniny and the prolific Omar Al-Somah.
Jurado scored his first goal in the 2-0 win over Al-Faisaly and pulled the strings in the 5-1 rout of Al-Fateh, claiming two assists. Jurado has played alongside Raul, won the Europa League and finished runner-up in La Liga twice, but Austin says the playmaker is “as humble as they come.”