In his first season in charge at Real Madrid, Rafa Benitez faces a delicate balancing act between allowing his formidable attack the freedom to perform and preventing opponents exploiting any defensive weakness.
MADRID: In his first season in charge at Real Madrid, Rafa Benitez faces a delicate balancing act between allowing his formidable attack the freedom to perform and preventing opponents exploiting any defensive weakness.
Benitez, who joined Real from Napoli following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season, has gained a reputation as a defensive coach during stints at clubs including Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
But with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and Isco in his ranks, he must satisfy the desire of the demanding Real fans for spectacular attacking football without sacrificing the solidity in midfield and at the back that Real were sometimes missing last term.
Benitez, who trained in the Real academy as a boy and went on to coach the club's youth teams, has returned home to sign a three-year contract but will be well aware that failure to win major silverware in his debut season will not be tolerated.
"I know what the supporters want: good football and victories," Benitez said in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais published on Monday.
"This team scores a lot of goals and has to continue scoring them but we have also conceded them and we have to correct that," added the 55-year-old.
"If I have an offensive team I will go on the attack and if I have to make changes I will make them.
"But what Madrid has to do is score more goals than the opponent and try not to let them score any."
Real begin their latest La Liga campaign at promoted Sporting Gijon on Sunday and will be trying to prevent champions and great rivals Barcelona winning a sixth Spanish title in eight years.
Benitez said some of the keys to Real's tactics will be pressuring opponents high up the pitch and allowing the forwards freedom to switch positions depending on the situation.
"Our idea is to have the ball and know what to do with it," he said. "And when we don't have it, knowing how we are going to get it back and where.
"The team needs to improve in defence but starting up front. That does not mean the forwards need to drop back but that they need to press high to win the ball back as quickly as possible and be closer to the opposition goal."