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

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.”

Winning start for Madagascar as they seek more glory in African Cup of Nations

Updated 2 min 7 sec ago

Winning start for Madagascar as they seek more glory in African Cup of Nations

JOHANNESBURG: Madagascar, the surprise team of the last Africa Cup of Nations, kicked off their 2021 qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Ethiopia on Saturday through a Rayan Raveloson goal.

The 22-year-old midfielder from French second-tier side Troyes netted on 19 minutes in Antananarivo for the hosts, who are ranked 95th in the world, 56 places above their rivals.

It was a tentative start in Group K by the Malagasys with French coach Nicolas Dupuis admitting it will be hard to match the achievements of earlier this year in Egypt.

The Indian Ocean island nation stunned three-time African champions Nigeria, then upset the Democratic Republic of Congo before losing to Tunisia in the quarter-finals.

“We need to build on the work that has been done to show that hard work pays off,” stressed the 51-year-old, who also coaches a French lower league club.

“Otherwise, our achievements in Egypt could become a one-off,” said the coach who was rewarded for his efforts in Egypt with a new four-year contract.

Ivory Coast host Niger in Abidjan later Saturday in the other Group K matchday one fixture.

Meanwhile, a poor start by Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic as coach of Morocco continued when lower ranked Mauritania forced a 0-0 Africa Cup of Nations matchday one qualifying draw in Rabat.

Morocco are ranked 42nd in the world, 63 places above Mauritania, and the barren deadlock left Halilhodzic with only one win from five matches since succeeding Herve Renard three months ago.

In warmup matches at home for the Cup of Nations, the Atlas Lions beat Niger, were held by Burkina Faso and Libya and lost to Gabon.

Frenchman Renard twice failed to bring the Cup of Nations trophy to Morocco, whose lone success in the premier African national team competition came 43 years ago in Ethiopia.