Real back under-fire Schuster

Real Madrid Monday expressed confidence in German coach Bernd Schuster despite a string of recent defeats for the Spanish champions. "We have full confidence in this coach, who is doing a great job" despite some "bad luck" in recent matches, sporting director Pedja Mijatovic told a news conference.

Double champions Real have suffered several recent defeats in all competitions, and are currently fourth in La Liga, five points behind leaders Barcelona. On Saturday they lost 1-0 at Valladolid, days after the club's humiliating ouster from the Spanish Cup by third division Real Union.

In the UEFA Champions League, Real has suffered two defeats against Juventus, and must beat Zenit St Petersburg next month to be sure of qualifying for the last eight.  The poor performances have led to press reports that Schuster, who joined Real in July 2007, had lost the respect of the dressing room and could be replaced.

Mijatovic said he was "very surprised" about some things he has read in press about Schuster.  "The standing of the coach has not changed since the start of the season. We continue to be happy with the coach," he said. "Recent results must not push us into taking the wrong decisions... At the end of the season there will be some serious analysis to see where we are, what must be done, what decisions have to be taken.

"I have much confidence and much faith that this team can bring us much happiness by the end of the season," he added.

Real's main problem is the amount of goals they are conceding with seven leaked in their last three matches. With Pepe out injured and Sergio Ramos, who has openly criticised Schuster this season for his tactics, looking out of sorts, the backline has appeared fragile.

At the other end, Real are faring better but injuries to Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben have left Real short in attack and the club are reportedly keen to sign Russia's UEFA EURO 2008 star Andrei Arshavin from Zenit St. Petersburg to bolster the forward line.