His job on the line, Lopetegui leads Real Madrid training

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Madrid, Oct 29 (IANS) Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui led the team’s training session on Monday for what could be the last time, after having reportedly bid farewell to his players a day earlier in the Camp Nou dressing room following their heavy 5-1 defeat by Barcelona.

Madrid is to face third-tier Spanish league club Melilla in the Copa del Rey round-of-32 on Wednesday, but Lopetegui may no longer be at the helm by then, as club President Florentino Perez is scheduled to hold a meeting later Monday with the board of directors on whether to sack the Spanish coach, reports Efe.

The atmosphere within the squad has been strange, sources inside the team told Efe, as the players had expected a different coaching staff to lead Monday’s practice session, with B-team coach Santiago Solari taking over as interim manager.

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The Real Madrid management has reportedly been mulling over a number of replacement options, including former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte, but will not cut Lopetegui loose until a deal has been sealed.

Just ten La Liga matches into Lopetegui’s debut campaign, Real Madrid is currently ninth in the Spanish league with 14 points, seven points behind leader Barcelona, and failed to earn a win in their last five Spanish league games.

The humiliating defeat against Barça on Sunday night seemed to be the final nail in Lopetegui’s coffin, but the club management has yet to make any public decision.

In June, the former Spain coach was fired from his national team just days before the 2018 FIFA World Cup when news of his hiring at Real Madrid became public.

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–IANS

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