The capital club take on arch rivals Barcelona tonight and face Ajax in the Champions League in midweek
REAL MADRID 0-3 BARCELONA: WATCH ALL THE GOALS AS BARCELONA THUMP REAL MADRID AT THE BERNABEUGet the biggest Real Madrid CF stories by emailReal Madrid must pick themselves up, dust down and rejoin the fight tonight against bitter rivals Barcelona.
The Catalans thrashed them 3-0 on Wednesday to reach the Copa del Rey final (4-1 on aggregate), but the sides go to war again at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday in La Liga.
After several stumbles in recent weeks, Santiago Solari is no longer being viewed as the saviour he seemed when he replaced Julen Lopetegui in October.
Madrid are faltering once again and defeat by Barca on Saturday could see them knocked out of the title race once and for all – they would be 12 points behind the league leaders with 12 games to go.
However, despite their humiliating defeat by Barcelona they actually had the better of the game. So, what is happening at Real Madrid ?
1. No killer edge
“Vinicius plays, Suarez kills,” screamed AS’s front page on Thursday morning after the dramatic midweek Clasico.
At just 18-years-old, Madrid’s Brazilian winger Vinicius ripped Barcelona to shreds but could not find a finish.
The forward had six shots and missed them all, with Suarez teaching him a lesson in cold-blooded finishing at the other end.
Despite the huge impact Vinicius has had, three goals from a total of 75 shots in his Madrid career to date is an abysmal tally.
The forward has helped Madrid survive in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo but the Portuguese forward’s goals are missed.
Madrid have hit 87 goals this season, their lowest numbers in nine years at this point of the season.
“Some shots should have gone in that didn’t but that’s football,” said Solari. “We have the chance to put in those that didn’t go in the other day.”
2. The tide
It’s not Solari’s fault that Barcelona have dominated Madrid over the last few seasons.
Instead, what we have seen so far this campaign (Barca winning 5-1 and 4-1 on aggregate) is just part of a trend.
For the first time in 87 years the Catalans can go ahead of Real Madrid in all-time Clasico wins.
They have played 241 games and triumphed 95 times each, with 51 draws, with Barcelona far superior over the past two decades.
Having won just 13 Clasicos at the Bernabeu in their history up to 2003, since then Barca have 12 victories in 24 games at Madrid’s home.
3. Star struggles
Madrid are finding it hard to get the most from their big-ticket players.
Isco has been all but dumped by Solari, with the Spanish playmaker not needed by the Argentine despite the undoubted quality he possesses.
Gareth Bale is another who the coach doesn’t seem to trust, preferring Vinicius on the left and Lucas Vazquez on the right, with Karim Benzema through the middle.
Bale is the most expensive player in Real Madrid history and would have found it painful to watch the team struggle for goals while he sat on the bench.
The Welshman may be called upon on Saturday as Solari looks for more accuracy in front of goal.
4. Strange but true
Just as the city of Madrid is surrounded by mountains and has its own climate, the club lives in its own bubble.
From the outside you might think that Solari has rescued a team drowning in crisis and restored its pride.
Anyone watching the Copa del Rey clash on Wednesday would have seen a Madrid side dominating their rivals, controlling the game – and yet leaving empty handed, morale crushed. Youngster Sergio Reguilon, who played brilliantly, was left crying on the pitch.
Barcelona only managed two shots on goal in the game – along with Raphael Varane’s own goal – but still walked away with a brutal 3-0 victory.
“Against Barcelona we conceded just two shots on goal, so we must have done a lot of things well for that to happen,” said Solari, although he knows as well as anyone that at Madrid it is results which count.
There is fear in the Spanish capital that this is the week Madrid’s whole season dies.
Kicked out of the Copa del Rey by Barcelona on Wednesday, defeat against their arch-rivals on Saturday would seal the fate of their slim title hopes, leaving them low on morale before the second leg of their Champions League last 16 clash with Ajax on Tuesday.
Madrid hold a slender 2-1 advantage from the first match in Amsterdam but will be without suspended captain Sergio Ramos, while the Dutch side were more impressive than the result suggested.“Solari’s credit has almost run out as Madrid think about the summer,” read a headline in Marca on Friday.
Cruel, considering he has brought them back to life from the wreckage left by Julen Lopetegui, bringing through youngsters Reguilon and Vinicius, who have impressed the notoriously fickle Bernabeu crowd.
Far more than three points are at stake when Madrid face Barcelona again tonight.