Real Madrid must regroup quickly after defeat ahead of El Clasico clash, says Santiago Solari

Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele in action with Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal during the clubs' Copa del Rey encounter. (Reuters)
Updated 28 February 2019
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Real Madrid must regroup quickly after defeat ahead of El Clasico clash, says Santiago Solari

LONDON: Santiago Solari wants his Real Madrid players to pick themselves up and forget about their midweek Copa del Rey defeat to Barcelona as they prepare to face their bitter rivals again in the league tomorrow.
The Catalan giants cruised to a 3-0 victory at the Bernabeu to wrap up a 4-1 aggregate win on Wednesday and will be full of confidence going into the game at the same ground, especially as they have won 10 of their last 17 matches at the home of Los Blancos, which is now being dubbed “Camp Bernabeu” by the media because of Barca’s recent success there.
Madrid haven’t beaten Barcelona in their last five matchups at any venue, and their last win was in the Spanish Super Cup final in 2017.
Despite this, Solari was upbeat about his team’s chances in the second El Clasico of the season — the first resulted in a 5-1 win for Barca.

“We are upset. It was a hard blow,” he said. “In football you have to pick yourself up quickly because we have another difficult match ahead of us.”
Things could have been different on Wednesday if young forward Vinicius Junior, seen as Madrid’s next star after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, had not missed many clear chances in a first half in which Madrid dominated and deserved at least a goal.
The 18-year-old Brazilian was the home side’s best player, creating many scoring opportunities, but was not able to capitalize.
“He will get better with time,” Solari said. “He will mature.”
Vinicius Junior’s teammates were quick to show their support for him.
“We have to score when he creates the chances, but we can’t blame a single player for the loss,” midfielder Casemiro said. “When we lose, we all lose. When we win, we all win.”
Ernesto Valverde celebrated his 100th match in charge of Barcelona on Wednesday, and has a chance to strike another double blow with a repeat result in his 101st on Saturday, by knocking Madrid out of contention in the title race for good.
But despite winning so comfortably, the Barca boss wants his side to be even better to ensure they get the result, which will take them 12 points clear of Madrid.
“Saturday’s match has the same importance as before and we will have to improve to win here again,” he told Spanish media.
Afterwards, he compared the game to his side’s recent goalless draw with Lyon in the Champions League.
“I think we come out of the game strengthened, but we also have things to improve. Curiously, in Lyon we had 25 shots and didn’t score a single goal and they were talking about us being a crisis,” he said.
“It was a game of two halves. In the first they were better and we weren’t great because they pressed us in certain areas and our rhythm was really slow.
“We lost the ball in bad areas and it could have cost us a goal. It was not a well-rounded game from us, I have to admit.
“We didn’t get close to their goal. But in the second half we played with more determination.
“Today we scored three goals but didn’t have many chances. Other times, it is the other way around.”


Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

Updated 7 min 5 sec ago
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Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

  • Proposal will be made at the federation’s general assembly next week

MADRID: The Spanish soccer federation is looking into the possibility of playing the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia beginning next year.

Federation President Luis Rubiales said Wednesday playing in the Middle East is one of the options being considered for the tournament, as well as a “final four” format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.

The competition has been played in a one-game final between the champions at the beginning of the season. The idea is to play the new Super Cup in January.

The proposal will be made during the federation’s general assembly next week.

Rubiales did not confirm reports the deal will be worth €30 million ($33 million) a year for six seasons, saying “it will be difficult” to reach that value.

The federation president, one of the main critics of the Spanish league’s idea to play a regular-season match in the US, said the decision would take into consideration the players’ health, noting that playing in Saudi Arabia would not affect them as much as if the game was played in the US or Asia, where travel time and time differences were greater. Last year’s final, won by Barcelona against Sevilla, was played in Tangier, Morocco.

This year’s Italian Super Cup was played in Saudi Arabia as part of a multi-year deal worth more than €20 million ($22 million).  The Spanish players’ association, which complained about the Spanish league’s attempt to play in the US, did not oppose the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.

“We weren’t against playing in the United States, what we wanted at the time was to be consulted about the idea and to give our opinion,” association president David Aganzo said Wednesday at an event organized by Europa Press. “If the proposal for the Super Cup is good for the players, we won’t have a problem with it.”

The Spanish league had to scrap the game in Florida after Barcelona, which would have faced Girona, backed down because of the lack of consensus among the parties involved. The league said it will try playing abroad again next season.

There is also a plan by the federation to reduce the number of games in the Copa del Rey to help clear up the calendar and keep teams from playing too many matches. The competition would include single elimination matches in some rounds, instead of a two-leg series. The proposal is also expected to be presented in next week’s general assembly.

“The clubs and the players want less official matches in the calendar,” Rubiales said.