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May 27, 2013

Lopez to fight Casillas for starting spot

Diego Lopez says he plans to stay at Real Madrid and compete with Iker Casillas for the goalkeeper's jersey next season.

• Train: Real squad issues
• Heynckes open to Real return
• Zidane: Ronaldo going nowhere

Lopez was signed by Jose Mourinho in January when Casillas was sidelined with a hand injury, then kept his place even when the long-serving club captain returned to fitness amid speculation that personal issues between the Portuguese coach and 'San Iker' were playing a part in team selection.

With Mourinho now leaving the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu many assume the new boss will return Casillas to the starting line-up, while Lopez' impressive performances in recent months have led to rumours that AC Milan and Monaco are poised to offer him assured first team football elsewhere.

But the Galician, speaking with reporters after a man-of-the-match performance in Madrid's 3-3 draw at Champions League chasing Real Sociedad on Sunday, said he had no intention of leaving and was looking forward to competing for the position next term.

"The coach gave me an opportunity today and I tried to take it, like everyone," he said. "I have a contract for many years. It is difficult to be unhappy at Madrid. I believe in competition for places and I believe the goalkeeping position will be open like any other place in the team. I am relaxed, trying to do things as well as possible."

Lopez, 31, made a string of superb saves during Sunday's game, frustrating the Txuri-urdin's Champions League qualification hopes as the result leaves them two points behind Valencia in the race for fourth spot with just one game remaining.

An understrength Madrid side had appeared disinterested at times, but conjured regular moments of individual quality in attack to go 2-0 and then 3-2 ahead. The Basque side kept the pressure on and equalised in injury time through Xabi Prieto for an outcome the keeper said had been fair.

"La Real played some good football and deserved their draw for all that they pushed for during the game," Lopez said. "They went forward and made us suffer in defence, but we fronted up and could have won until the last minute, which says a lot. They demanded a lot of us, because they are a good team with a lot of variety in attack. They were pushed on by a great opportunity to play in the Champions League."

Meanwhile, neither Mourinho nor assistant Aitor Karanka fulfilled their post-match media duties at Anoeta, disappointing reporters who had hoped to ask about the Portuguese coach's potential return to Chelsea and for the latest on the possibility of Carlo Ancelotti leaving Paris Saint Germain to take charge at the Bernabeu for next season.

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