It was always going to be a tough task for Rafa Benitez to replace his popular, Champions League winning predecessor Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and Saturday’s woeful 4-0 home defeat to Barcelona has turned the pressure up a notch.

Facing widespread criticism for a game plan that seemed to fail calamitously, the Madrid press have not held back in blaming coach Rafael Benitez for a second straight defeat that left them six points adrift of their arch rivals at the top of La Liga.

‘Benitez sentenced’ ran the headline in Marca yesterday, with the newspaper claiming it is only a matter of time before the coach is axed.

His future is in the hands of club president Florentino Perez, who has seen numerous managers come and go and whose own role is under the spotlight.

Chants of “Florentino resign” rang out from all corners of the Bernabeu at the end of each half in Saturday’s trouncing.

It was Perez who had pulled the trigger on Ancelotti at the end of last season, 12 months after the affable Italian had claimed an historic 10th European title for the club.

Benitez arrived at Madrid with the unwanted tag of preferring a more pragmatic and defensive game than his predecessor.

He was, however, seen as someone who would be prepared to compromise tactically, in order to keep Perez happy, with the president known to prefer attacking teams packed full of high-profile players.

This seemed to be the case on Saturday when he sacrificed defensive midfielder Carlos Casemiro from his starting lineup for the one-sided encounter that was decided by a double strike from Luis Suarez and goals for Neymar and Andres Iniesta.

Casemiro has generally been Benitez’s preferred option as a midfield anchor alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, but rather than continue with this strategy he decided to field the more high-profile attacking talent James Rodriguez.

Similarly, Karim Benzema started in attack and played the full 90 minutes despite the fact that he was returning from injury and looked off the pace, giving the Barca defence a largely comfortable evening.

Real found it difficult to build through midfield and Rodriguez was replaced by Isco after the break.

The Colombian was, however, by no means the only one to blame for Real’s poor display, as Gareth Bale, playing through the centre behind Benzema, was also anonymous.

Cristiano Ronaldo, so often Real’s hero in the past, had their best chances but was denied by quick reactions from Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo.

The Portuguese, whose relationship with Benitez has been scrutinised by Spanish media, has not scored in three games.

Dressing room

When Madrid defender Sergio Ramos was asked after the match about Benitez’s relationship with the dressing room compared to that of Ancelotti, his response was less than a full endorsement of his coach.

“It depends on how you value it. When a trainer is there for two or three years like Ancelotti then you have a closer feeling,” he said.

But with questions circling about Benitez’s future, Ramos denied that change was the answer.

“It is necessary to be more united than ever with the president and the coach,” he told reporters.

“When you lose a game against Barcelona the fans are going to be unhappy. They want answers and do it by whistling.”

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