surinenglish

Lopetegui's survival strategy

The Real Madrid coach is under fire.
The Real Madrid coach is under fire. / EFE
  • A LOOK AT LA LIGA

  • Injuries have not been kind but the Real Madrid coach's job is on the line if he doesn't turn things round fast

Julen Lopetegui is like a swimmer who is hanging onto a thin branch to stay afloat, but can see the rapids ahead and he's not sure if he can survive them.

The international break used to be his period in the public eye, now it gives him respite from the burning spotlight. He's feeling the pressure of club management that is magnified more at Real Madrid than at any other club in the world.

Failing to score in four successive games leaves his position under scrutiny and he's probably lucky that there's a diversion of a week's break or he may have been departing after just five Liga games.

It looks like the president is going to at least give him the chance of experiencing a 'Clásico' from the bench. The game with Barcelona is almost certainly judgement day.

As it stands, despite their timid performances, Real are only a point behind Barcelona and Atlético so the season is salvageable. There are mitigating circumstances, like the club's greatest ever goalscorer moving on, plus a stack of injuries.

Interestingly, only four of the players who finished against Alavés actually started the Champions League final last May.

It's a defence for his lack of results but it was also an excuse for Rafa Benítez who only made it to January as the boss of the Bernabéu. The history lesson of Spanish coaches at the club doesn't help his case.

None of the last five Spanish managers of the club have lasted a season. Rafa experienced 25 games in charge, Juande Ramos 27 games, Juan Ramón López Caro had 24 games, Mariano García Remón four less, and poor José Camacho left without even taking charge of a single match in his first spell and was given only six games when he returned.

Lopetegui needs landmarks. The first has to be beating Barcelona. That could keep him in a job until the next international break. Then he has to ensure qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League. That could buy him time until Christmas. Then he has to hope that he can put Eden Hazard on the wish list and unveil him in January. So that's the survival strategy.

Sadly the odds are stacked against him with injuries and illness striking his team. Gareth Bale's sent a postcard back from Wales with his latest sick note as yet another bearer of bad news.

At the weekend, they ended up with a strike force of Dani Ceballos, Mariano and Vinicius. That's not a trio that is going to win any titles.

So Lopetegui needs to plead with the president to make sure that the rumours of Hazard joining are true. The Belgian has been sensational with Chelsea this season and very diplomatic in his interviews. It's obvious that he'd jump at the chance to swap capitals and he wouldn't be fazed at filling the void left by Ronaldo.

Get Hazard alongside Bale and Karim Benzema and Real Madrid will be a true force again.

Whether Lopetegui survives in his job to see it is a matter of time.