La Liga

Perez gives backing to Mourinho

Jose Mourinho is under intense pressure at Real Madrid.
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Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has given his full backing to boss Jose Mourinho, describing him as the best coach in the world.

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Mourinho has found himself in the spotlight at Madrid following an under-par start to the season which has seen the reigning champions slump 11 points behind arch rivals Barcelona in the Primera Division and on Wednesday suffer a 2-1 defeat to Celta Vigo in the first leg of their Copa del Rey fifth-round tie.

The loss to Celta was Madrid's sixth of the campaign in all competitions and means they have already lost more matches than they did in the whole of last season.

That form has led to speculation about Mourinho's long-term future at the club, but Perez today backed the Portuguese, who in May penned a two-year contract extension tying him to the nine-time European champions until 2016.

"We have the best coach in the world," Perez said. "He's had to endure unjust attacks and insults, even one that touches the dignity of his person. From here, all my gratitude and affection.

"There is no unattainable goals, as you know our coach and players.

"Already this season has made us happy with the first title of the season, as the Super Cup."

Experienced Espanyol forward Sergio Garcia has taken heart from Celta's cup victory Madrid and hopes his side can follow suit and add to the champions' problems.

He said: "Celta are an example that you can beat Madrid. They played very well, they didn't stop running, they had luck in front of goal and took advantage of their chances.

"They (Madrid) are favourites but we are going to give it everything to get something from the Bernabeu."

Espanyol travel to the capital stuck in the bottom two of La Liga with just 11 points from their 15 games this season.

However, they have drawn both of their opening two matches under new coach Javier Aguirre and came agonisingly close to a much-needed victory over Sevilla last time out only to be denied by a stoppage-time equaliser from Alvaro Negredo.

Despite showing signs of a revival, the Barcelona-based outfit remain firm underdogs against Madrid - although Garcia feels that could be to their advantage.

He said: "It would seem on paper that they could beat us easily, but not being favourites could be a weapon in our favour and we could give them a scare. They are the favourites but we will try to cause a surprise."

Garcia has been suspended for the last four matches following his sending off against Valencia but the former Spain international is hoping for a recall this weekend.

"I'm really keen to return. I was anxious because I wanted to be able to help my team-mates. It was a bad time for me and I hope I don't miss another match," said the 29-year-old.

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