Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui said he still has "the strength" to continue in the job and turn their season around, despite the "very tough blow" of Sunday's 5-1 La Liga Clasico hammering at Barcelona.
Barca went ahead through Philippe Coutinho's on 11 minutes, with Luis Suarez's penalty making it 2-0 on the half-hour mark. The visitors fought back after the break, and Marcelo cut the deficit almost immediately, but a late Madrid collapse saw Suarez complete his hat trick and substitute Arturo Vidal head a fifth goal late on.
Even before Sunday's game, a poor run of recent results had led to speculation that Florentino Perez was planning to appoint a new coach, and such a Clasico embarrassment is unlikely to have changed the Los Blancos president's thinking. But a quite shaken-looking Lopetegui told the post-match news conference at the Camp Nou that he still believed he could have a successful season with Madrid if allowed to stay in the job.
"It is hard, a defeat is always hard, even more at Barcelona," Lopetegui said. "We are feeling down, but I am feeling strong. This is a tough blow, but I am strong enough to know everything can be turned around. There is a long way to go, and I have a lot of faith in this group of players. We have been punished a lot by injuries. I feel sad at the moment, but with full strength to remain in charge of this group."
Champions League winners in the past three seasons under Zinedine Zidane, Madrid have not won any of their last five league matches, dropping to ninth place in the La Liga table, closer to the relegation zone than leaders Barcelona.
"We all know how the world of football works, and the final responsibility lies with the coach," Lopetegui said. "I am not stupid. But here we win together and lose together. I still believe we are in an [early] stage of the season, and Madrid this year will celebrate. We need to pick ourselves up, as from outside we will get no help, of course. We must keep insisting, there is no other solution in this situation."
Asked on beIn Sports if Lopetegui would be in charge for Madrid's next game, Madrid director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno responded: "This is not the moment to talk about that.
"It is a very hard result. That is the truth. This is a bad night for all of us. We are not happy and feel bad for our fans. When we lose, we all lose the same, just like when we win. We must congratulate Barcelona and move on."
Speaking after the game, Madrid midfielder Casemiro said the scoreline and performance was a reflection of a "disastrous" season so far for the Bernabeu outfit.
"The image we gave today was the image of our season," Casemiro said. "The 5-1 [loss] is the season we are having, the result reflects that. We have played well in some spells, and today we started the second half well, could have equalised. But that is this season -- we are a disaster, all playing very badly, all of us."
Lopetegui, however, claimed things would have been very different if his team had managed to equalise during a period of control early in the second half.
"We have the feeling that we could have turned the game around, we had chances to equalise, and go on and win," the former Spain boss said. "In the first half, they were better, but without so many chances, we did not feel they were superior. We were much better in the second half, had a moment to get back into the game, had many chances to score, hit the post. But it did not happen, and more misfortunes arrived, more injuries, and the third goal ended our hopes, and the punishment at the end was excessive -- 5-1 does not reflect the game."
Lopetegui added he would not criticise his players and had faith in his squad to come good by the end of the campaign.
"Don't expect any reproaches for me for the players, I am just focused on lifting them," he said. "I believe in this group, this team. They made a big effort in the second half, in one moment we had full control of the game, were making chances. But in football at this level, if you do not take your chances, it affects your morale, and they took their first opportunity to make it 3-1.
"We are all very down now, but I want to see what will happen in April and May, that is still a long way away. It is for me now to lift this team, make them believe they have a future this season. We have had such bad luck over these weeks, but all runs come to an end. And I am sure the team will show another face."
Madrid's next game is a Copa del Rey last 32 first leg at third-tier semi-professional side Melilla, located in the Spanish enclave in North Africa, before a La Liga game against Valladolid at the Bernabeu next Saturday afternoon. Casemiro called for calm and time to allow the team to turn their season around.
"We must be calm, and have patience," Casemiro added. "We know we are not playing well. We need to improve, we know this season is not good."