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Jose Mourinho insists job is safe despite Iker Casillas gamble backfiring in latest Real Madrid loss

Real Madrid 16 points behind Barcelona

Real Madrid headed into the winter break of La Liga in their worst position for four years following a 3-2 defeat at Malaga on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho's side sit third – and 16 points behind rivals Barcelona – at the midway point of the season.

Mourinho had suprisingly opted to drop his captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas prior to the clash, instead selecting Adan Garrido, and his explanation was that "we hadn't been playing well in different aspects of the game, among which was our defence".

The former Inter Milan and Chelsea manager added: "It was a technical decision. My opinion is the one that matters. I analysed the players I had available and picked the team to play."

The move looks set to cause unrest among the Madrid supporters and his players. Spanish defender Sergio Ramos explained how the players were not expecting the decision. "It surprised us, Iker is our captain," he said after the game.

With mounting speculation over Mourinho's future he chose to remain positive. "Fear for my job?" he said. "I have never feared for my job."

Although Adan was not tested in the first half, the product of the Real Madrid youth academy conceded five minutes into the second as Isco gave Malaga the lead.

Madrid equalised through a Sergio Sanchez own goal but on loan Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz scored twice in three minutes to make it 3-1.

France international Karim Benzema scored a late consolation goal but it was not enough to save Madrid from their fourth defeat in nine away matches.

The Brazil full-back Dani Alves dedicated Barcelona's 3-1 win over Valladolid to their coach, Tito Vilanova, who is recovering from surgery on a cancerous tumour. "This win is for Tito," he said after the game. "We are here to help him any way we can. Football is secondary now, he is fighting for his life."

Lionel Messi scored his 91st goal of 2012 in the victory as the midfielder Xavi and the forward Cristian Tello also got on the score sheet for the Catalans.