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Pepe offers backing for Casillas

Real Madrid defender Pepe has described team-mate Iker Casillas as "an institution" in a show of support for the clb captain who has lost his place in the team this season.

• Blog: Valladolid a test again but Real prevails

World Cup winner Casillas has fallen down the pecking order under Mourinho, with the 31-year-old again consigned to the bench as Madrid narrowly beat Real Valladolid 4-3.

Mourinho has made no secret of his distrust in the Spanish captain's abilities, recently admitting he made a mistake by not sooner replacing the club legend with Diego Lopez.

Asked what he would have changed in hindsight when he first took charge of Madrid, Mourinho said: "I would have signed Diego Lopez then. I wanted to do it, but I did not try hard enough. That is a pity."

However, the coaches comments have not gone down well with some in the Madrid ranks, with his countryman Pepe believing Casillas deserved more 'respect' from Mourinho.

"We have to have a bit more respect for Iker," the 30-year-old said to Canal Plus "The boss's quotes were not the most suitable.

"Iker is an institution - at this club and in Spain. He has to know that we [the players] and the fans are behind him."

The war of words again raises speculation Madrid could soon see the back of Mourinho, with rumours suggesting he is on the verge of returning to Chelsea and the Premier League.

But Pepe said the coach's future was not a concern for the playing group, wanting only to finish the season with a strong showing.

"We're relaxed. The coach needs to sort it out with the club. We are playing for the shirt," he concluded.

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