Madrid: Possibly for the last time, Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui was in charge of the team on Monday.

A day after a demoralising 5-1 loss to Barcelona, Madrid were back in practice with Lopetegui in command. But a board of directors’ meeting later in the day was expected to end the coach’s tenure less than three months into the season.

The former Spain coach needed Madrid to succeed against Barcelona on Sunday to have a realistic chance of keeping his job, but he left Camp Nou lamenting the team’s fifth loss in seven matches in all competitions.

“We know that results are important for a coach. Let’s see what happens in the next few hours,” Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said after the game. “We’ve already said we are 100 per cent behind our coach, but these decisions are not made by us and we have to respect them. We have to stay calm and not point fingers at anybody.”

Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was touted as the main candidate to replace Lopetegui, with some Spanish media saying negotiations with the Italian coach were already in advanced stages.

The firing would cap a horrible few months for Lopetegui and was likely to deal a significant setback to his career. The 52-year-old coach, making his debut with a major club in a top European league, was let go from Spain’s national team just before the World Cup for not telling federation officials he had accepted the Madrid job.

If Madrid fire him as expected, Lopetegui will have failed to succeed in two of the most high-profile coaching jobs in the world in less than six months.

“It’s still early in the season and I think I have the strength to think we can turn things around,” Lopetegui said. “The responsibility ultimately lies with the coach but we win and lose together. I’m certain that better times are ahead for this team.”

— AP