Benítez: "I'm delighted with James"


Rafa Benítez, Real Madrid head coach, spoke in the Sports City press room before taking charge of the final training session ahead of the Éibar clash. The first team manager assessed the trip to Ipurua in the following manner: "Éibar are a strong side and are in good form. They're at home, which is always difficult, and they're full of confidence. But so too are we. We have to maintain our high intensity so as to make the most of the quality we possess when we do have the ball".

"The match in Ukraine showed us that when we're fully focused, when the team are in control of the ball and everyone is tuned in and on the same page we're capable of scoring four goals away from home against teams like Shakhtar. If we play as well as we know we're capable of then we can go 14 matchdays unbeaten. We have an opportunity against Éibar to show our supporters that the team are at that level, that we're still in the fight, that there are plenty of fixtures left to play still and that we're eager to do well every weekend".


"The takeaway from the game was quite positive because we wanted a reaction from the team and that's what we saw. The team worked really hard, controlled the game, created chances and scored goals. We conceded twice through set pieces and that allowed Shakhtar back into the encounter, but that's an easy thing to analyse and can be corrected simply with a bit more concentration. The stretches of play when we were displaying so much cohesion and understanding between each other are what need to be emphasised and are what I'll be thinking about going forward".


"I'm delighted to have a player of James' calibre. I hope he can be at his best in every game, score loads of goals and help Real Madrid to win loads of matches and titles. Competition for places is very high here and having players like him is a privilege. My job is to get the best performance out of him in the games he's picked to play in".


"He's been training very well, he's at ease and is doing excellent work. He's fit, focused on his football and there's nothing more I can add".


"The players are professionals and they understand that the manager has to make decisions. On our day off in Ukraine, and after having slept for five hours, we held a voluntary training session with players like Lucas, Cheryshev, Rubén and Arbeloa. We make a big effort to maintain their match fitness so they can help the team out when necessary".


"I've never told Bale to play on the left or Ronaldo to play on the right. They have the freedom to move around in attack and only need to take on the role of whatever position they're in at a given time. Cristiano and Bale have the freedom to change positions, that's when they're at their most dangerous, when the opposition can't predict where they're going to be. I'm in charge of a top quality side and I need to be able to manage the players' attributes".

"We'll need to keep our focus right until the final whistle. They're a high-intensity side, they have a clear game plan and are playing excellent football. We need to maintain our high intensity. What we saw the other day was a reminder of what we had already seen in a lot of matches previously. We saw the team play really well in various games. We saw that again the other day for 75 minutes and that's the kind of form we want more of".


"I don't share the opinion that he caused a decline in the team's performance level. Kroos came on during the match, controlled the ball well, let the game flow and was accurate with his passing. It wasn't the team's performance level that dropped but rather a mistake that led to the penalty. Kroos didn't cause our performance level to drop off, instead he contributed towards maintaining it high and did so superbly".


"On the pitch we're going to work with who we've got available, coordinating the players in such a way that the injuries don't seem so important. And off the pitch we're going to work hard to get players back to full fitness as quickly as possible".


"Recovery times are never certain, it depends on the player. I'm hoping Varane will be back in less than a month's time. We'll evaluate Sergio's situation with him and the doctor, but I have total faith in Nacho and Pepe".


"He's a professional manager and he analyses things professionally. He can see that Real Madrid do a lot of things well. It's going to be a tricky match because Éibar work hard, they know what they have to do".


"If you break the games into runs of 14 and 3, the statistics can then be manipulated in one direction or another. In the last match we conceded twice from set pieces and that's just a matter of a lapse in concentration. As long as everyone's aware of that, the team will get back to being the side with the fewest goals conceded in Europe".


"On the topic of our players, the nice problem we're faced with is having so many top quality options to choose from. Mateo showed us what he can do at the start of the season. After that he suffered with some muscle fatigue and needed to be rested. He's fit now and I'm hoping he can get some playing time because the competition for places is good for the group".


"We all make mistakes, starting with me. Assessments are made too early. At the end of the season we'll know whether or not we had a good season. Going 14 games unbeaten with all the problems we had is significant. We need to rejig a number of things. I'm happy with the reaction we showed the other day. The team are at the required level, they're eager and can do well from now until the end of the season. I'm focused on the game so I'm not going to talk about any potential comings and goings".