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Real Madrid gives coach Benitez vote of confidence

Club president Florentino Perez has given coach Rafael Benitez his backing, two days after the team's sobering 4-0 defeat at home to rivals FC Barcelona. The thrashing prompted calls for both men's resignation.

Florentino Perez emerged after a board meeting at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Monday evening, announcing to fans that he expected the Real Madrid, the world's richest club by income, to bounce back and return to winning ways soon after an

embarrasing defeat to Barca on home turf

.

Rafael Benitez

The vote of confidence buys Benitez time, but how much?

In his first public address since the defeat on November 25, Perez denied rumors that he had received requests from players to sack coach Rafael Benitez or that he had influenced the team selection for the game in any way. Perez added that 55-year-old coach Benitez had his and the team's full support.

"He was picked for his professionalism, his achievements, his experience and his ability," Perez said.

"He needs time. Many players have been out injured for two months. The team has been on the decline since January, that's why we brought in Benitez. But he cannot fix things from one day to the next, these things take time."

Uphill struggle

Perez, 68, who has been the president of Real Madrid since 2000, added that he understood the "disappointment of fans after what happened" and accepted the blame, but asked the club faithful to show their "support to the team and to the players."

Real are currently third in La Liga, two points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid and six points behind leaders Barcelona. Benitez, a former manager of Liverpool, Chelsea and Inter Milan, among others, has only been in charge for 16 games, but back-to-back defeats have left Madrid six points behind Barcelona in the race for the title.

ss/msh (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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