Real Madrid promise to stick with Pellegrini

Florentino Perez resists knee-jerk sacking of coach after latest Champions League failure
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The Independent Online

As Real Madrid tried to come to terms with Wednesday night's traumatic events and a sixth successive Champions League exit at the last-16 stage, the club denied the widespread assumption that coach Manuel Pellegrini would carry the can for defeat to Lyons.

After Real's exit at the hands of the French side 2-1 on aggregate, Jose Mourinho was immediately installed as the favourite to take Pellegrini's job but it seems the Chilean will not be sacked before the end of the season as president Florentino Perez attempts to save face.

Pellegrini will be given until the end of the current campaign to wrest the La Liga title from Barcelona, and if he manages it, such is Perez's desire for continuity, he will see out the remaining year of his contract.

Real have been through seven coaches in the last six years and none of them has been capable of taking the team into the Champions League quarter-finals. "You cannot evaluate such a big project over just a six-month period" Pellegrini said in response to calls for his head.

The Real coach woke up to headlines of "Adios Champions League, Adios Pellegrini" after the 1-1 home draw but there was support from director-general Jorge Valdano, who said: "Pellegrini has a contract and the club's plan is that he stays in charge."

Some players also defended the coach, with goalkeeper Iker Casillas saying: "He is not concerned about his position. He has the support of the players and he knows that. The coach is always the first one to be blamed but the main culprits are the players."

This year's exit will be all the more painful for Real should Barcelona reach the final as it will be held at their own Bernabeu Stadium in May. The Barcelona director, Magda Oranich, did not miss out on an opportunity to question their arch-rivals' attitude this season. He said: "This proves that you can't just swagger your way through life. There were declarations made before the game that they would win 3-0 – if you say things like that then you can slip up."

Lyons' 19-year-old hero Miralem Pjanic, who hit their equaliser at the Bernabeu, said: "We were motivated by their arrogance in the build-up to the game."

Manchester United and Bayern Munich are two more sides Real fans will hope do not make the final. United sold Cristiano Ronaldo (left) to Real for £80m last summer but have carried on regardless in his absence. Bayern are in the last eight largely thanks to Arjen Robben, who has managed to score more goals for the German side in six months than he did for Real in two seasons.

Attention was last night also turning to who Real should sign for next season with Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal and Valencia's David Silva overtaking Bayern Munich's Franck Ribéry in the demands of the club's supporters. Despite starting so well on Wednesday against Lyons, Real lost the midfield in the second half and badly missed the suspended Xabi Alonso.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo yesterday pulled out of an energy drink commercial scheduled to be filmed at lunchtime, prompting speculation that he was too upset at Real's exit to perform for the cameras. The club cited family reasons for his non-appearance. and he trained apart from the majority of his team-mates in the gym. Later it was reported that one of his cousins had died.