MADRID, January 24 – Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho admitted his team selection gamble on Sunday in the crucial clash against Real Mallorca was a high-risk strategy.
Real edged a 1-0 win to stay four points behind Barcelona with French striker Karim Benzema grabbing the only goal to end a week when his lacklustre performances had caused friction between Mourinho and general manager Jorge Valdano.
But it was a poor first half on Sunday and an unhappy Mourinho responded with a double substitution with Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil coming on for Fernando Gago and Kaka.
"My decisions were risky, but I allowed the midfielders who will play in Sevilla (in the midweek Spanish Cup semi-final against the holders) to rest tonight," said Mourinho.
"(Sami) Khedira is injured, but he will play on Wednesday. I wanted to avoid being in a difficult situation by half-time against Mallorca. The 0-0 score was good because we knew we were going to make changes to the lineup in the second half.
"The double substitution helped the team make an immediate improvement."
Mourinho also praised the Real fans for their patience and for not turning against the team.
"If the fans support the team it means they support the coach, because I am the team," Mourinho told the club’s official website.
"I need the fans to be with the team, and they are. I cannot expect them to be incredibly happy tonight, but it is very complicated to play nine games in January at a very high level. The team still has its limitations, but it continues to win, which is what really matters."
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas meanwhile leapt to the support of 35-million-euro Benzema who grabbed the goal, but then missed a handful of chances to add to the scoreline.
"He will make all the front pages and news reports. He has an introverted character but he has opened up and has the whole support of the dressing room," said the captain Iker Casillas.
"He is young and has a lot of talent."