Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez is to return to Valencia tomorrow, where he won two league titles with los Che, fighting to hold on to his job.
Madrid’s awful year last year began with defeat at the Estadio Mestalla, which ended a 22-game winning run and led to the eventual sacking of Carlo Ancelotti after he failed to deliver a major trophy.
His successor could also be set for the chop after just six months in charge should Real suffer a fourth league defeat in eight games.
Yet, despite another unconvincing display in seeing off Real Sociedad 3-1 on Wednesday, thanks in part to two debatable penalty decisions in their favor, Benitez insists his side are improving and can challenge for La Liga and the Champions League this year.
“What I want [this year] is for the team to keep winning games and the fans to enjoy victories, good football and a title,” he said.
“The review of the year will be made at the end of the season. We continue in good form because the team reacted well and is playing better every game,” he added.
It is the first time that Benitez will return to the Estadio Mestalla as an opposition coach after leading a golden age for Valencia, with titles in 2002 and 2004 before joining Liverpool.
That success seems a distant memory with Valencia in desperate need of the points themselves. Gary Neville is yet to taste victory after his first three games in charge in La Liga.
However, they have only lost three of their past nine meetings with Madrid and have not been beaten at home in La Liga since November 2014.
The visitors are expected to be at full strength, with captain Sergio Ramos training on Thursday after missing the win over Real Sociedad.
Madrid could find themselves five points adrift of the leaders by the time they kick off at the Mestalla, with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in action today.
Barca rounded off a five-trophy haul last year with a 4-0 win over Real Betis midweek to also set a new record tally for Spanish soccer of 180 goals in a calendar year. Their quest to repeat that feat this year comes in the first of three Barcelona derbies in 10 days away to RCD Espanyol today.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
Former MLB pitcher Wang Wei-chung has signed the biggest contract with a local team in Taiwan’s professional baseball history, the Wei Chuan Dragons said yesterday. The 28-year-old left-hander signed a five-year US$2.08 million contract with the Dragons, team chairman Hsu Wen-fang told a news conference. It is the biggest contract in the CPBL’s 31-year history, surpassing a three-year, US$1.36 million deal Lin Chih-sheng signed in 2016 with the CTBC Brothers. Although the overall value of Wang’s deal set a new record, his average monthly salary of NT$990,000 (US$33,886) is lower than Lin’s pay of NT$1.2 million per month in 2017
TAIWANESE TO PLAY: Jason Jung faces Frederico Coria in the men’s singles first round today, while in the women’s singles, Hsieh Su-wei is to take on Barbara Haas Novak Djokovic is to renew his love-hate relationship with Roland Garros in the knowledge that it is himself rather than seemingly unsettled 12-time champion Rafael Nadal who could pose the greatest threat to winning a second Paris title and 18th Grand Slam crown. The only man to beat Djokovic this year is Djokovic after the Serb’s hair-trigger temper prompted a sensational disqualification from the US Open. The 33-year-old arrives in the French capital with a 31-1 record this year after his New York brain-fade was followed by a record 36th Masters title in Rome. Djokovic’s 2016 triumph at Roland Garros allowed him to
Taiwan’s Jason Jung was knocked out of the first round of the French Open in straight sets on Sunday, while Andy Murray said it was going to be “difficult” for the former world No. 1 to reach his level of old after he also fell to a lopsided defeat by fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka. Jung fell to a 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3) defeat to Argentina’s Federico Coria in 3 hours, 19 minutes at Roland Garros, despite hitting 55 winners. Jung served for both the first and second sets, then failed to convert two set points at 5-4 in