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Report: Lopetegui out at Real Madrid after historic slide

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Julen Lopetegui may not be entirely at fault for the historic skid Real Madrid has found itself in the midst of, but if reports are accurate, he will be taking the fall for it.

According to Sky Sports, Lopetegui is out at Real Madrid, and the change at the helm is imminent. Whether Lopetegui is the main culprit or not, the optics of the last few weeks have been far from pretty.

Madrid has gone five matches without a win across all competitions, four of those losses. They suffered through a club-record 481-minute scoreless streak, which ended on Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Levante.

Earlier in the day, Spanish outlet Marca reported that Lopetegui is on thin ice, saying that he will be fired soon, “if it is not today, it will be tomorrow, or in the next week, or after El Clasico.”

Lopetegui maintained his safe mindset after the Levante loss, telling reporters, “Right now that is the last thing that I’m thinking about. I feel more encouraged than ever to continue because the team gave their heart and soul on the pitch. Sooner or later we will come out of this. The dressing room was sad but the players are keen to lift themselves up and look to the next game. The players gave everything and we will get out of this situation.”

However, there was a Lopetegui quote following the loss to Levante that may reveal a little more about his current mindset. Lopetegui said, “Football will give back everything it has taken from us,” or, in other words, Lopetegui believes that Real Madrid’s performance will advance back to the mean. He clearly believes what is happening at Real Madrid does not need fixing, and if he continues to plow forward eventually things will correct themselves. While that may or may not be true, the points Madrid has lost in the La Liga table, and the positioning it has lost in Champions League play, cannot be recovered. There is serious ground to be made up in league play now with Barcelona four points ahead of Madrid, plus three other teams between the two sides in the standings.

While it was always going to take time to adjust for the loss of star player Cristiano Ronaldo, that alone is not the reason why Madrid has failed to put the ball in the back of the net. There is some bad luck involved as Lopetegui mentioned, considering they put up 3.26 expected goals and hit the woodwork three times in the loss to Levante, but they also had less than stellar performances against Alaves and Atletico Madrid, and they were soundly beaten by Sevilla.

It’s been a rough few months for Lopetegui. His acceptance of the Madrid position this summer resulted in a messy and embarrassing split from the Spanish national team less than 48 hours before the start of the World Cup. He lost his opening match in charge, falling to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in extra time, and while the club won four of its first five league matches, the dry spell eventually struck, and here we are.

It’s no surprise that Florentino Perez, the firecracker in charge of Los Blancos, has made a move in the midst of the struggles. No matter where the blame ultimately lies, the manager is always going to be the first to take the fall, and that appears to have taken place at Madrid.

Report: Real Madrid to fire Lopetegui within 24 hours

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Fire a coach early in the season? Don’t threaten Florentino Perez with a good time.

Real Madrid will reportedly cut ties with Julen Lopetegui, heaping misery on a man whose 2018 has gone about as poorly as possible.

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Dismissed from the Spain job on the eve of the World Cup for negotiating with Real Madrid, Lopetegui’s tenure at the Bernabeu is reportedly over after a 2-1 home loss to Levante left the three-time reigning Champions League winners with 14 points through nine matches.

VAVEL’s Mootaz Chehade has the report, saying the announcement will come in the next day.

Real started 4W-1D in La Liga, but has now lost three of four in the league. Los Meringues beat Roma but lost to CSKA Moscow so far in the Champions League, and lost to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

A trip to Barcelona is next for El Clasico after a midweek Champions League visit from Viktoria Plzen.

Lopetegui under pressure amid Real Madrid scoring drought

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) It looked like a no-brainer at the time. Which coach wouldn’t jump at the chance to lead star-packed and wealthy Real Madrid?

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But four months later Julen Lopetegui may be ruing the day the club’s president Florentino Perez made him an offer that he just couldn’t refuse.

Not only did his decision in June to sign for Madrid get him fired as Spain’s manager two days before the start of the World Cup, but the juggernaut Lopetegui inherited from Zinedine Zidane is now a team in apparent disarray.

Madrid has lost three times and drawn once in its last four matches. The team that boasts stars such as Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos hasn’t been able to score a goal in that span.

Even the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Madrid this summer as its all-time top scorer, can’t shield Lopetegui from being blamed for the team’s longest scoring drought since 1985.

Lopetegui has tried to take a team that for nine seasons was built around putting Ronaldo in position to score and mold it into a side that deploys a collective attack. In Lopetegui’s own words, “it doesn’t matter who scores, the goals are scored by the team.”

Unless, that is, nobody can put the ball in the net.

Madrid had already lost 3-0 at Sevilla, drawn 0-0 with Atletico Madrid, and lost 1-0 at CSKA Moscow before a humiliating 1-0 defeat at Alaves on Saturday.

Even though Alaves is exceeding expectations and Madrid was playing without three of its first-choice players, Madrid hadn’t lost at the Basque club’s ground since the 1930-31 season.

Lopetegui seemed helpless to stop his players from being outmuscled in most of the individual match-ups and was unable to find a way to break Alaves’ pressure and spring Bale on the counterattack.

While Bale and Karim Benzema have failed to score consistently this season, Lopetegui benched Marco Asensio against Alaves in favor of Dani Ceballos. Asensio went on late along with newcomer Mariano Diaz, but neither could generate scoring chances.

Ramos made a half-hearted defense of his coach.

“When it comes to making changes, there are others who take those decisions, it is not up to the players,” Ramos said, before adding, “For the squad it is never good that there is a change of manager. … It would be crazy.”

Lopetegui had kept Spain unbeaten in 20 matches but the national team exited the World Cup in the round of 16 in the wake of his departure. Ironically, Lopetegui must hope that this week’s international break will give his injured players a chance to recover. Bale and Benzema both had to be substituted during the match at Alaves because of unspecified injuries. Marcelo and Dani Carvajal were already unavailable, while Francisco “Isco” Alarcon is recovering from surgery to treat appendicitis.

“This is a difficult moment and the coach is always the one who is responsible,” Lopetegui said. “We still have time. But it is clear that first we must get some important players back, as well as our verve and confidence. Obviously, confidence comes through scoring goals.”

Madrid’s next match is against Levante on Oct. 20. It will then play in the Champions League against Viktoria Plzen before it visits rival Barcelona on Oct. 28.

DEFENSE WANTED

Fortunately for Lopetegui, Barcelona is also in a domestic dip despite Lionel Messi’s best efforts.

Messi scored to salvage a 1-1 draw at Valencia on Sunday, but Barcelona’s winless streak in the league reached four games.

Barcelona had hoped to reproduce its stellar midweek performance at Tottenham when Messi scored twice in a dominant 4-2 victory in the Champions League.

But despite dominating long stretches of the match at Mestalla Stadium, its defense had another of the kind of momentary lapses that have plagued Barcelona recently and allowed Valencia to score early from a poorly defended corner.

“It is true that we are in a rut this season that we avoided last year of either having to come from behind or have the match turn against us,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

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Lopetegui: We “have to suck it up” after loss to CSKA

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Some in Real Madrid circles are ready to push the panic button following another punchless outing for the attack in a 1-0 loss at CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

Do not count manager Julen Lopetegui amongst the worriers.

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“We created plenty of chances and couldn’t finish them off,” said the Real Madrid boss. “We were unfortunate today, but if you don’t score, it’s not easy to win. We tried to turn the screw, but it would not happen for us. The work, performance, and will to win shown by my players was clearly on show. The game started in a surprising manner, as CSKA nicked a goal and we were then really unlucky in front of goal.”

After winning its first three league matches under Lopetegui, Real is 1W-2D-1L in its last four. That includes a 3-0 loss to Sevilla, and a draw in the Madrid Derby.

Now tack this loss onto the pile, although Real out-attempted CSKA 26-8 in Russia.

“When the goals don’t come, you can keep trying, create some chances and try to be more accurate. This team will be scoring goals again soon enough, and we’ll be back to winning ways. In football, you find yourself in these situations. We have to suck it up, take the defeat on the chin, tomorrow however we need to focus on Alavés and our commitments in La Liga.”

Losing in Moscow is not the end of the world, and similar stumbles for Atleti and Barcelona in Spain means Real picked a decent time to go through a rough stretch. President Florentino Perez is the antithesis of a patient man, but a move here would be the wrong one.

Reports: Real boss Lopetegui meets with El Tri star Herrera

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Julen Lopetegui and Hector Herrera have a history, and that may lead Real Madrid to a coup on another Mexican national team star in the tradition of Hugo Sanchez and Javier Hernandez.

Herrera, 28, will be a free agent after the season and has been linked with Tottenham Hotspur, Roma, Inter Milan, and Fulham.

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Yet reports say Real Madrid is in pole position thanks to the relationship between its manager and Porto’s center midfielder, and that the two met in Portugal during the international break (Herrera was one of several key players absent from Mexico and the USMNT for Tuesday’s match in Nashville).

Lopetegui managed Herrera at Porto, where the Mexican remains a fixture in the lineup for Sergio Conceicao. Herrera was signed from Pachuca in 2013, and Lopetegui managed the El Tri star for a year-and-a-half after taking over in 2014.

Herrera is capped 75 times by Mexico and is a complete force in the middle of the park, possibly the most effective club player from a CONCACAF side.

Herrera could help replace Luka Modric and/or Mateo Kovacic, should either player leave Real next summer. Modric was linked with Inter Milan in August, while Kovacic is on loan at Chelsea.