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Estudiantes sack Pellegrino after six matches without win

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Mauricio Pellegrino has been sacked as coach of Estudiantes after Monday’s 2-0 defeat at Tigre, their sixth match in a row without a win in the Argentine championship.

“We have decided to end Mauricio Pellegrino’s contract. We thanks him and his coaching staff for what they gave us,” the club’s technical secretary Agustin Alayes told a news conference after Tuesday’s training session in La Plata.

He said the club’s board headed by former midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron made the decision at a meeting earlier on Tuesday.

Estudiantes began the season with three victories but have since picked up two points out of a possible 18.

Their form in the Libertadores Cup, which they have won four times, has followed a similar pattern and they are third in their group after last week’s 1-0 loss to Atletico Nacional of Colombia in La Plata.

Pellegrino, who was Rafael Benitez’s assistant manager at Liverpool from 2008-2010 and then cut his teeth as head coach at Valencia in 2012, took charge at Estudiantes on the recommendation of Veron when he was still playing for the club.

“This is a tough day for me. The club decided to break my contract. I take it with a lot of personal and professional pain. I felt strong enough to carry on,” Pellegrino, a former Velez Sarsfield, Valencia and Liverpool defender, said.

“We’ve done a lot of good things in these two years (but) in this last period it’s cost a lot to maintain our sporting intensity... I know this team will improve, it’s a question of time and the best is yet to come,” the 43-year-old added.

Former Independiente, Barcelona and Argentina centre back Gabriel Milito was named by local media as favourite to fill the vacancy.

Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ken Ferris