Rafael Benitez: Shakhtar is great club with highly experienced coach
On the eve of the match against the Pitmen, the head coach of Real Madrid answered questions from the media.
- What innovations have you brought in during the two months of your work with the team? Have you changed the players’ psychology and their fitness? If so, how you did it?
- I believe that the key point here is the attitude of the players to the game. It’s up to them to solve all the issues, we just help them and show what they should work harder at, in what cases they should defend or attack better. It is always possible to improve the level, we see that we follow the right path. Most importantly, the team should assess their performance and always treat the game seriously.
- You have had a major reshuffling of the players, you also changed tactics. Will you give Cristiano Ronaldo a rest in some matches?
- For me the most important thing is to use the capabilities of our team to the maximum. Sometimes I could be wrong, but in any case I do it just to improve our performance. And reshuffling depends on whether a certain player gives his all or not, as well as on mutual understanding on the field. There are those who simply need to be replaced. But it is important to take into account their current roles. Ronaldo, for example, starts the match down the flank, finishing it in midfield. In any case, we will try to implement the very best plan in every encounter.
- You previously deployed different goalkeepers in the Champions League and in the domestic league ...
- At this press conference, I cannot say anything on this matter. We perfectly know that all three goalkeepers at our disposal perform very well. We have no problems with that. Tomorrow, we will decide everything and then draw our conclusions.
- In the previous encounter, you beat Espanyol 6-0. But it there something that you did not like in that encounter?
- There is always something that should be changed in the course of the match. I see that the players show full dedication, so each time Real will only play better.
- James Rodríguez is currently injured. And Isco did not produce the desired result last season. What does he need to find his place in the team?
- Isco is a great footballer. He should do exactly what he does: work and work again, fully dedicating himself to the matches and training. In any case, we must make full use of his capabilities. I like his hard work and the quality of his performance. If there’s still something we can improve in him, we will surely try to do it.
- Is Ronaldo really the best football player you’ve ever worked with?
- I have coached many excellent players, but, of course, Cristiano is one of the best masters of their craft.
- What about the rapport between Bale and Ronaldo?
- We often discuss some tactical issues with him. They have quite a lot of freedom on the field offensively. We polish all that in training. Everything done by the attackers depends on their individual qualities, so it all depends on a specific situation. But they enjoy full understanding. Gareth has excellent speed and Cristiano cuts inside. We try to maintain a balance between them. Plus we add here the pace of Marcelo and Carvajal, and try that the whole team act in an organized way.
- This year, we see that the positions of Ronaldo and Bale are changing. Is it your advantage or just a risky decision? Perhaps, in this way you are trying to send the opponents the wrong way?
- I want to tell you openly: our team are strong up front. We decided straight away that Real should play attacking football. I'm not going to take the players’ potential away. Responding to the question, I will say that these players perfectly know where they should be on the field. They have a certain freedom of decision. They are the greatest, the most talented players! Of course, everyone performs a specific task, and when the players properly coordinate their actions with each other, we turn into the most dangerous attacking team. Also, we try that the lads properly group themselves and move back. Our performers have the freedom. In general, we always try to improve our performance. Say, Cristiano, Hames, Isco and other players shoot excellently. But sometimes, the situation requires them to play one-two. An important role in the attacks belongs to Benzema. So the main thing is that the players showcase harmonious football. They may run less, but show a better understanding and coordination on the pitch. I am not going to disclose it further, otherwise you will bombard me with questions! But I want you to have at least some idea of what we want to see on the field.
- The other day, Ronaldo set a record for Real in terms of the number of goals scored in La Liga, beating Raul in this regard. Who from the Madrid club history could you compare Cristiano with in terms of his qualities?
- I just did not have the possibility to watch Di Stefano on the pitch, but they told me a lot about him. I better know Raul and his game qualities. Ronaldo is a player of about the same class, plus he is prolific.
- Do you embrace rotation, the reshuffling of players: some of them rest more and some do less. Last season, it didn’t happen. Perhaps that is why Real were so tired towards the end of the football year?
- That’s not a question of changing players. The bottom line is how the players act and what kind of dedication they show at their positions. Also, much depends on their physical condition. You need to see how they played in each match, and take it as a starting point. I understand that we have a great team with great players. I need to use the potential of our players. For example, that of Modric, who was injured last year. If Luca is ready - he takes the field. If Toni Kroos is required to play – he also plays. For each match, we should very carefully pick the line-up. Plus, I would note that sometimes we do not want to risk it. Accordingly, our decisions might be confusing for you, but we know that better, because we base it on each player’s condition.
- What do you think about Shakhtar? What Spanish club could you compare them to?
- It's a good team. Our group is not the easiest. In any case, I think that this is a great club, with a coach who has huge experience and who always tries his best - even with the new players who constantly join Shakhtar - to achieve major goals! We know that the players who come to this team, and then leave it, get much better. I know that they have fast players. They are quite a difficult team for us! We try to be focused and, of course, look forward to one hundred percent. Compare Shakhtar with some Spanish team? I even do not know with whom. Maybe I would like to draw a parallel with Galatasaray. The club featuring some great football players. And when everything goes well for them in the match, they are a very dangerous team. Especially considering that Shakhtar has young talented performers.
- Within the framework of European competitions, you, being the coach of different teams, met with Ukrainian clubs many times. They caused you problems: you failed to reach the Europa League final. Now you're the coach of Real Madrid. Will tomorrow's game has an element of satisfaction?
- No no. In any case, each season is unique. We cannot compare them like this. Now I'm the coach of Real and we'll be playing at the Santiago Bernabeu. So we need to forget what happened before, and concentrate solely on tomorrow's encounter. For us that’s a challenge: we kick off the Champions League campaign with a home game! And that’s a huge responsibility – the fans should be happy.
- Real Madrid have won the Champions League ten times. What do you feel now?
- I feel the challenge. We have to win every game, and not just win some Cup or win the competition. With our mentality, we should change our attitude and act from game to game. Of course, I like both the Champions League and the Cup, but we cannot choose just one thing. So I try to win a particular match and, once again, to act from match to match.
- Do you think there will be any changes of goalkeepers?
- Of course, we can change some players, but it all depends on the positions. We have already played before this match, made rotations so we will try to stick to it. All depends on the results.
- Is Marcelo the only player who cannot be simply replaced by someone else, according to you? Who would you field instead of him?
- For me, the presence of competition is crucial. Daniel, would you play in his role? (Addressing Carvajal. – writer’s note) Everyone has great speed, we are working well. I think there is no specific player for a certain position. We try to analyse each player depending on his training and condition.
- Maybe one of your challenges is to make Ronaldo surpass his record under Ancelotti, when the Portuguese scored 61 goals?
- I prefer Ronaldo to claim numerous titles together with the team.
- Do you want the players to have that killer instinct in the box?
- I want the players to work together with the team, with their teammates! I want them to step up not just their performance quality, but also conversion wise, so that they can score as often as possible. Today, I have already had a word with Daniel, so that he can make use of his scoring opportunities, although he does that well even now. We will also try to work on that with Karim Benzema. They have every ability for that!
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