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Lopetegui Dismisses Uncertain Future After Madrid Hit 33-Year Drought

Julen Lopetegui insisted it is too early to be questioning his future despite Real Madrid suffering a shock defeat by Alaves on Saturday to make it four games without a victory.

It is four games without a goal too for the European champions, their longest scoring drought since 1985, as Manu Garcia headed home in the 95th minute to send the Mendizorrotza Stadium wild.

It is the first time they have beaten Madrid at home in 87 years. Alaves fans ran onto the pitch to celebrate their stunning 1-0 win and the chants continued long after the final whistle.

For Real, this was another body blow and to make matters worse, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, their chief attacking threats, were both forced off injured. Bale had missed the Champions League loss to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday with a groin strain.

It means Barcelona can go three points clear if they win their game in hand against Valencia on Sunday while Alaves’ excellent start to the season continues.

They move up to third, level on points with Real. Lopetegui had been asked on Friday if he felt under pressure at the club he left Spain for on the eve of the World Cup and the question was put to him again after the match here.

“It interests you but is not a question that concerns me,” Lopetegui said.

“We know what the life of a coach is, especially at Real Madrid, but we also know it is October and you have to keep perspective and stay calm.”

Captain Sergio Ramos was more emphatic. “It’s other people who make those decisions but it’s never good to have a change of coach,” he said. “It would be crazy.”

Talk of change feels premature but it will increase if Madrid fail to find fluency soon and, in particular, if Barca pull away. The Clasico at the Camp Nou looms at the end of the month.

“We are disappointed,” Lopetegui added. “In the end, defeat is a harsh punishment.”

Some of the 19,000 fans here might have seen their team beat Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2000, but not at home. It was 1931 when that last happened.

There was a UEFA Cup final too in 2001, which they lost to Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool, but recent years have been tough, with three seasons spent in the third tier. Alaves climbed their way back up and reached the final of the Copa del Rey in 2017. But for drama, this will be hard to beat.

“I feel very proud,” Garcia said. “It is the most beautiful day of my sporting life.”

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ta/jc

© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)

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Author: Chris Kelleher

Student whose interests lie in sports ranging from Darts to MMA, with the likes of Golf, Boxing and Soccer in between. Closet wrestling fan and a lover of sports psychology and stiff jabs.