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Stay of execution for Schuster at Real Madrid

Real Madrid sporting director Predrag Mijatovic has issued a vote of confidence to embattled coach Bernd Schuster

Speculation over the future of Schuster had intensified after a 1-0 defeat to Real Valladolid at the weekend - their third loss in four games - as arch-rivals Barcelona opened up a three-point gap at the top of La Liga.

Mijatovic, whose own relationship with Schuster has been the subject of tittle-tattle among the Spanish press, sought to head the rumours off at the pass as the nine-time European champions struggle for form.

The Serbian former striker rubbished the speculation, saying he was "fully confident" in his coach. "We have one of the best squads in the world and I am convinced that we can finish the year with a title," he said.

"We have only played 11 games in the league and we are close to the top. We have total faith in our coach. We are all very happy with him. In recent games we have done as we have wished. Not only us, but him as well.

"We want to transmit calm and confidence to the fans."

After being beaten home and away by Juventus in the Champions League, last week saw the Primera Liga champions suffering an embarrassing exit from the Copa del Rey at the hands of Segunda B's Real Union and Spanish media claimed Schuster could well be sacked if Madrid lost against Valladolid.

Spanish daily AS claimed that Schuster's decision to give his players two days off after the defeat at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla infuriated club president Ramon Calderon, who reportedly detailed Real chiefs Mijatovic and Miguel Angel Portugal to seek out potential replacements.

Roberto Mancini, Victor Fernandez or Real Madrid youth team coach Michel were all supposed to be in the frame should Schuster be given his cards.

Club captain Raul Gonzalez had insisted that all the club's players are 100 per cent behind their under-fire manager but rumours of unrest have been rife for a number weeks.

"It is a lie to say that we are not behind the coach," said Raul. "Of course we are all with him. There is no problem there."

However, Madrid golden-boy Guti and defender Sergio Ramos have been critical of the abrasive German in recent interviews.

Schuster, who represented Barcelona and Real Madrid as a player, won the Primera Liga title in his first season at Los Blancos last term.

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