Madrid – Real Madrid’s new coach Rafa Benitez has dismissed suggestions he has imposed a defensive playing style on the team after they were held to a goalless draw in their opening La Liga match at promoted Sporting Gijon last weekend.
Benitez, who took over the Real hot seat from Carlo Ancelotti after the Italian was sacked at the end of last season, again blamed the draw at Gijon on a lack of shooting accuracy and said his players had not lacked attacking ambition.
Real’s hopes of beating Real Betis, last term’s second-division champions, in their second outing of the La Liga campaign on Saturday could be boosted by the return from injury of France forward Karim Benzema, who Benitez said was ready to play “some minutes”.
“Generating these debates after every match surprises me,” Benitez told a news conference on Friday when asked about Real’s relative goal drought.
“We drew 0-0 and people talk about a defensive team,” added the former Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Napoli manager.
“Which team had the most shots last weekend,” he asked reporters.
“It was Real Madrid. If having more shots than your opponent is being defensive then I am lost.
“A draw is not defensive. It’s a match without the ability to hit the target.”
Benitez sprang a surprise by leaving Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez out of his starting lineup for the Gijon game, with Spanish striker Jese deployed up front and Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Isco just behind in a three-pronged attacking midfield.
James, who came on 10 minutes into the second half, was initially on the bench because his participation in the Copa America and subsequent holiday meant he had not had the same level of preparation for the season as some of his team mates, Benitez said.
“That’s all there is to it,” he added. “Beyond that, there is a technical decision. There are people who want debates. I have a lot of confidence in James.”
Real, whose failure to win the Champions League, La Liga or the King’s Cup last season prompted Ancelotti’s sacking, are seeking to deny arch-rivals Barcelona a sixth Spanish league title in eight years.
Barca won their opening match at Athletic Bilbao last weekend 1-0 and host Malaga on Saturday.