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Luis Enrique: Memorable game against eternal rival

luis-enrique-barcaReal Madrid coach Rafael Benitez insisted he is more worried about recovering his players’ confidence than being sacked after the Spanish giants were thrashed 4-0 at home by bitter rivals Barcelona on Saturday.

The former Liverpool and Chelsea manager has only been in charge for 16 games, but back-to-back defeats now leave Madrid six points behind Barcelona in the title race.

“Logically we are hurting. It hurts to lose and particularly to lose in that manner,” Benitez said. “We have lost three points in La Liga and nothing more. What worries me is the team recovering mentally before the next game.”

Just as galling as the result for Madrid fans was their side’s complete inferiority as Barça dominated from start to finish and could even afford the luxury of leaving four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi on the bench on his return from a two-month injury layoff.

Goals from Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta had already put Barça 3-0 up by the time Messi was introduced and he was involved in setting up Suarez to seal a humiliating defeat for Benitez’s men. However, he believes he will be given the chance to turn things around, starting with Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk.

“I insist that we haven’t played well and the only think that we can do now is recover as quickly as possible to face the next game. Thinking about La Liga, there is still a long way to go and we need to do things as we were doing them when we were undefeated.”

And Madrid vice-captain Marcelo insisted his team’s often ego-driven dressing room remains fully behind Benitez.

“We have full confidence in him and him with us,” said the Brazilian. “We are at the beginning of the project, we have confidence and there are still plenty of games left to play.”

By contrast, Barça boss Luis Enrique couldn’t hide his delight at a brilliant all-round display by the European champions, but agreed with Benitez that the title race is not over yet.

“It is a memorable game against the eternal rival. We both have the same objectives and it tastes all the better having been so superior,” Enrique said. “It was a complete game from us. I am very happy because although there is still a long way to go in the league it is always important to win here and to give our fans this joy.”

Iniesta was applauded off by some Madrid fans when he was replaced 13 minutes from time in scenes reminiscent of the Bernabeu’s reaction to Ronaldinho’s stellar performance in a 3-0 Barça win ten years ago. And he admitted Barça had no intention of slowing down as they tried to emulate the 5-0 thrashing of Jose Mourinho’s Madrid five years ago.

“We wanted to win and then the bigger the difference the better,” he said. “There is still a long way to go and it is in no way decisive, but we go away from here very, very happy. I thank the fans (for their gesture.)”

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