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Lopetegui defiant as pressure mounts at Real

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By Reuters
Lopetegui defiant as pressure mounts at Real
Soccer Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - October 22, 2018 Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui during the press conference REUTERS/Sergio Perez   -   Copyright  SERGIO PEREZ(Reuters)

MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui said on Monday he would fight to turn the team’s performance around as pressure mounted on him following a series of poor results that has sent Real down to seventh place in the La Liga table.

Former national coach, Lopetegui has been at the Real helm for nine La Liga games, only four of which ended in victory for the club, and local media have reported rumours about his likely dismissal following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Levante.

A defiant Lopetegui, however, brushed off the reports and said there was still time to reverse the team’s fortunes.

“If you’re wanting to see a wounded coach, don’t look over here,” he told a news conference ahead of Real’s Champions League tie with Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.

“We’re going to fight to turn this situation around. We know it’s not the best but we’ve got time in which we can turn it round and we’ll fight, starting with tomorrow’s game,” said Lopetegui, 52, who caused controversy for accepting the Real job on the eve of the World Cup and was fired by the Spanish FA.

Tension over the team’s showing is also mounting on the players, and tempers flared at their Valdebebas training ground as captain Sergio Ramos reacted angrily to being hit on the nose from a ball by youngster Sergio Reguilon during training.

Ramos blasted a ball at the 21-year-old and had to be calmed down by Luka Modric before resuming the session.

Real are without a win in their last five games in all competitions, and their defeat to CSKA Moscow earlier this month means that they sit second in Group G in the Champions League, behind the Russians and level on points with third-placed Roma.

They may get some consolation from the end of a goal drought during Saturday’s defeat, having set an unwanted club record of 465 minutes without scoring, something Lopetegui hopes to fix ahead of this weekend’s Clasico fixture away to Barcelona.

“There’s a direct correlation with goals — at both ends. It’s what decides the games, even if you’ve been the better side. We need to be more efficient in that sense, but this will come with good play,” he said.

(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Helen Popper)