Real Madrid head coach Rafael Benitez faces a vital week as he looks to save his job with the Spanish football giant.
Although Real president Florentino Perez has spoken twice already this season of his continued support for the coach, (after the 0-4 defeat at home to FC Barcelona, and less than a fortnight ago) insisting Benitez will be in charge until at least then end of the current season, the fact is that the knives are out for the former Liverpool, Inter Milan, Valencia and Napoli tactician, reports Xinhua.
Fans at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium booed the announcement of his name ahead of Real’s game at home to Rayo Vallecano just over a week ago and continued to do so, despite Benitez’s men putting 10 goals past nine-man Rayo.
The decision by Chelsea to sack Jose Mourinho has only complicated matters further with some fans seeing the return of the controversial Portuguese boss as the remedy to FC Barcelona’s dominance in Spain and Europe (forgetting perhaps that in three years at Madrid, Mourinho only won one league and two Spanish Cups) and that his relationship with the dressing room had soured badly by his departure in the summer of 2013.
However, with Manchester United also reported to be interested in Mourinho as a replacement for the beleaguered Louis van Gaal, it is now or never for Perez if he wants him back and as such Benitez could be on borrowed time whatever happens in the next week.
One thing that is certain is that failure to win the next two games will almost certainly cost the experienced coach his job. Real Madrid entertain Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, before travelling to face Valencia on Sunday.
Benitez will probably already be steeling himself for the whistles he can expect to hear against Sociedad for a game which his side should win without too many problems, despite the probably absence of captain Sergio Ramos through injury.
If he gets through that game intact he will then return to one of his former hunting grounds — the Mestalla stadium, where he led Valencia to two league titles and the UEFA Cup in the 2003-4 and 2004-5 seasons.
Valencia are yet to win in the league under new coach Gary Neville, but showed signs of improvement in their 2-2 draw against Getafe before Christmas and there is little Valencia fans like more than beating Real Madrid.
Meanwhile Neville, a former Manchester United player who loved to torment Benitez’s former side, Liverpool, will also have underlined the date and the Real Madrid coach can expect little sympathy from his former supporters.
It is a litmus test both for Benitez and his side: if they can dig deep and show they are willing to graft a win, then he could cling onto his job, but if they return to the capital with anything less than a triumph, Mourinho could yet make his return to the Bernabeu.