Rafael Benitez has scotched suggestions Real Madrid are too defensive by pointing out they had more goal attempts than any other La Liga team.
Benitez and his players have faced negativity this week for starting their campaign with a goalless draw against Sporting Gijon, leaving them without a goal in five of their nine – competitive and non-competitive – outings under the former Napoli and Liverpool boss.
Ahead of tonight’s home opener against newly-promoted Real Betis, however, Benitez referenced the fact Los Blancos had 27 shots at El Molinon.
That is more than the next two highest teams – Malaga had 25 attempts in drawing 0-0 with Sevilla while tonight’s opponents Betis managed 22 in their 1-1 at home to Villarreal.
He said: “I’m surprised with how they analysed the game because we had a lot of chances, pressure and possession.
"We had a goalless draw and people call me defensive. I don’t know if you have access to statistics, but we were the team with the most shots in the first week of La Liga.
"I’ve been abroad so maybe I’ve missed something, but for me attacking is going forward and creating chances. We did that.”
Benitez, who was guarded about Karim Benzema’s chances of returning from injury tonight, was also unhappy with complaints over his decision to leave Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez on the bench last weekend.
He explained that the non-selection was due to James’s late arrival during pre-season following his participation in Copa America.
Much of the discussion over James’s place has focused on Gareth Bale, who has been moved into a new central position by Benitez but responded with a mixed performance against Gijon after similarly modest displays in pre-season.
The Welsh international’s repositioning has won very little support among the Spanish media, with one prominent journalist even suggesting this week that every other midfielder in the Madrid squad would be better suited to the role than Bale.
Benitez said: “After 20-odd years coaching I analyse every game and I cannot guarantee that any player will have the same position all season.
"If I don’t give freedom to the players, they say I’m confining them. If I do give them freedom, they say I am making things confusing. Those who want to start
debates, will start debates.”
In stark contrast to Benitez’s frustrated demeanour, Real Betis counterpart Pepe Mel is looking ahead to tonight’s contest with great enthusiasm.
“We believe we can achieve a lot in this game,” said Mel, whose team started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Villarreal.
“We’re a team just promoted against a team who won the Champions League not long ago. The distance is obvious, but we’ll make it difficult.”
Mel then joked: “I wish I had a lack of goals like that. No goals for Cristiano, Benzema, Bale or Isco…it wouldn’t be bad for Real Betis if we had all of them with no goals!”
Barcelona have brushed aside media speculation linking Neymar with a world record transfer move to Manchester United and reveal the club will soon offer the Brazilian superstar a contract extension.
Reports in England claimed United were prepared to spend £240 million (Dh1.4bn) – £130m (Dh749m) on Neymar’s buyout clause and the remainder on tying the player to a long-term contract at Old Trafford – to acquire the 23-year-old.
“Those are just rumours and what people write but there is nothing to it,” Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said to Catalan radio station Catalunya Radio.
“Neymar is happy at Barca. We don’t want Neymar to leave at all.
“He is a young player that has an international football projection above the norm. He has helped us a lot in our recent successes.
“In a few months’ time we will discuss his contract extension as he has three years left on his current deal. We want him to stay for many years, three, five, 10 or even 15 years more with us.”
Neymar joined the European champions from Santos in June 2013.
He scored 29 goals and set up seven more to help Barca win La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble last season.
Bartomeu also confirmed that Barca will not be making any further signings until next year.
Barca signed Aleix Vidal from Sevilla and Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid this summer but they cannot play until January when the club’s transfer ban expires.
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale discusses his hopes for the new season in Madrid.