Rafael Benitez's job will come under serious threat if his Real Madrid side lose against Barcelona this weekend, a report has claimed. Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo said Real president Florentino Perez was unhappy with the club's style of play and was contemplating a change in the dugout should Madrid plunge to defeat against their bitter rivals at the Santiago Bernabeu on 21 November.
The report said Zinedine Zidane, who coaches Real Madrid Castilla, will be asked to take charge if Benitez is sacked. Another option could be Victor Fernandez, who is part of the club's youth set-up. Benitez has endured a testing start to his reign at the Bernabeu, with his safety-first approach drawing the ire of stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez. Real suffered their first defeat of the season before the international break away at Sevilla, slipping to second behind Barca in the La Liga standings.
Spanish football expert Graham Hunter says Benitez desperately needs a Clasico victory to ease the pressure on himself. "It has been to Benitez's great detriment that in these formative months the players likely to doubt him most, attackers such as Benzema and Rodriguez, have been absent from the team," he wrote in his ESPN column.
"Meanwhile, the single most likely player to doubt Benitez, Ronaldo, has had his wings clipped not only by the playing style and managerial instructions but by the absence of those who help him on the pitch - Benzema, Rodriguez and, to an extent, [Gareth] Bale.
"It was always going to be difficult trying to pair world-class, self-assured and high-maintenance players who were used to [Carlo] Ancelotti's rather hands-off approach with a micro-manager like Benitez. It would be made more difficult still when, because of injuries, the manager has not had the consistent time in matches to field his best XI and thus convince his players to be patient with his demands via a winning streak," Hunter added.