IKER Casillas has played down his controversial omission from Real Madrid’s line-up against Malaga, insisting he must accept coach Jose Mourinho’s decision and focus on regaining his starting berth.
Mourinho caused a major stir after choosing to start with back-up goalkeeper Antonio Adan for the Primera Division clash at La Rosaleda in place of captain and long-serving number one Casillas. Mourinho said after the match, which Madrid lost 3-2 to slump 16 points behind leaders Barcelona, that his decision was “purely technical”.
Speaking tonight ahead of a charity match in Madrid, Casillas told La Sexta television: “The coach decides which team he thinks is best for each match and you need to accept the decision. I’m not used to being a substitute, but above Iker Casillas or any player is the team. What I need to do is continue training and try to recover the confidence of the coach.”
Casillas, who has won a host of titles with Madrid and captained Spain to the World Cup and back-to-back European Championships, added: “I feel good, but it is the coach who decides who plays. It will be a nice battle with Antonio. There is a healthy rivalry between us. Throughout the week I could sense that I wasn’t going to play but it’s not a setback.
“Mourinho didn’t explain anything to me. He doesn’t do it when I play, nor when I don’t.”
Mourinho, meanwhile, insists he does not regret dropping Casillas for the match. Speaking after arriving at Lisbon airport, he was quoted by AS newspaper as saying: “Casillas? I have a clear conscience. I try to choose the best team for every game.”
The loss to Malaga was Madrid’s seventh of the season in all competitions, which is already more than they suffered in the whole of the last campaign and has seen the pressure build on coach Mourinho. The former Inter Milan and Chelsea boss was, however, defiant when answering questions about his future, insisting he had no intention of quitting Madrid and did not fear for his job.
However, he does feel the gap to Barca is now insurmountable.
Unbeaten La Liga leaders Barcelona ended 2012 on a high when Lionel Messi struck his 91st goal of the year in a 3-1 win at Real Valladolid.
In the Netherlands, meanwhile, Feyenoord moved level on points with third-placed Ajax going into the Eredivisie’s winter break on Sunday. Graziano Pelle’s double (58 and 87) gave Feyenoord a 2-1 win at home to FC Groningen, who had equalised through Virgil van Dijk.
Ajax could only manage a 0-0 draw at FC Utrecht, who had Dave Bulthuis sent off in the last minute. There was also a goalless draw between RKC Waalwijk and Willem II, with both sides ending the game with ten men.
Willem II will be happier with the point after surviving Gaby Jallo’s dismissal on 38 minutes, while the numbers were evened up in the final minute with the departure of RKC’s Teddy Chevalier. Finally, there was yet another red card as Roda JC climbed out of the relegation play-off places with a remarkable 4-2 win at fellow strugglers VVV Venlo.