In a few hours, Real Madrid could be looking for a new manager whose first mission is to defeat Barcelona in El Clasico as Julen Lopetegui fights for his future
Let’s be totally clear and as frank as possible.
The only reason for Julen Lopetegui to be sitting on Real Madrid’s bench on Tuesday is that Florentino Pérez hasn’t got his replacement in hand.
Julen Lopetegui is 90% out of Real Madrid. A slight mishap away of being sacked. A little mistake and he’s done for good. Finito. ‘Adiós’. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s just facts piling up in a huge stack, becoming a sledgehammer and hitting the proverbial nail in the manager’s coffin.
Against Levante on Saturday, Lopetegui’s Real Madrid once again showed the world that they are in deep trouble. The first half-an-hour was just as impressive from the Granotas as huge a disappointment for the home team.
Jose Luis Morales ran circles around the opposition and humiliated Sergio Ramos. Roger Martí seemed quick as lightning compared to Real’s defenders. At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Oier made save after save after save, adding to the fans’ utter desperation.
Real’s only real threat came with crosses and desperate attempts to head home any random football around. No plan, no style, no flair, no emergency back-door… Nothing. The second half was even more frustrating, because it never really seemed that Los Blancos would be able to turn it around.
Even with Karim Benzemá on the pitch (and generating huge chances that Marcelo would eventually convert into the 1-2), they never were better than Levante at finishing their plays. The final whistle made the away team explode into happiness after an historical feat… and meant game over for Lopetegui, right?
No. In fact, not yet.
Lopetegui fighting for his future
Even though the world ‘crisis’ boomed across the media, the DEFCON-2 emergency situation was (smartly) left to cool down while Florentino and close collaborators scrambled in the Bernabeu offices looking for a replacement. Names were thrown around in the newspapers and radio broadcasts like rag-dolls. “Wenger! Jose Mourinho! Now, Antonio Conte (again)! And Roberto Martínez! What about Guti? How does Santiago Solari sound?”
— Real Madrid C.F. ???? (@realmadriden) October 22, 2018
The official reason for pardoning Lopetegui’s managerial ‘life’ is, seemingly, the lack of time in between games, as they play on Tuesday against Viktoria Plzen. Even though absolutely nobody believes that, let’s pretend we run with it. What about Real’s *next* match?
Yeah, what about El Clásico?
We’re talking about a make-or-break game here. Any sort of prediction, even the wildest ones, might agree on Real winning their Champions League fixture with relative ease. The next one against FC Barcelona will be a completely different animal, though. It’s another league totally. And, even with Messi knocked out of the match thanks to a convenient arm injury, Los Blancos are not going to have an easy evening at Camp Nou.
Which are the possible outcomes right now? Well, Lopetegui could win on Tuesday and be subsequently sacked in the next few hours. It would be odd, but not unprecedented. Or the team could win on Tuesday and then be beaten at El Clásico. That would mean lights out for Lopetegui with a 99% certainty.
But… what if they pull off an amazing win at the weekend in football’s biggest event? What if Real wins two in a row and upsets Barça in their own ground? We shouldn’t completely rule out that possibility… and still, nothing, absolutely nothing, guarantees that Julen Lopetegui would be sitting on Real’s bench the next day.
That’s how incredibly and critically serious the matters are right now at The White House. And Julen can’t even complain; after all, he already knew in July that he was in for a hell of a ride, which – depending on the next couple of games – might be even briefer than he expected.