MADRID – Following two defeats in four days to archrival Barcelona, Real Madrid’s head coach Santiago Solari said on Monday the team would focus on getting back to winning ways going into its UEFA Champions League round of 16 ties against Dutch side Ajax.
The giant of the Spanish capital was felled 3-0 in a Copa del Rey semifinal second round with its Catalan nemesis Wednesday and again 1-0 in a league match Clasico four days later.
But the Argentine head coach looks to dust off the damage and turn the players’ attention to their encounter on Tuesday.
“We want to win and progress to the next round,” he told a press conference. “Tomorrow it’s the Champions League and we’ll be there.”
“The players have a lot of character and they are calm with their conscience because they gave everything, gave the maximum effort and did a good job. We aren’t happy when we don’t win. Tomorrow we have another game. We’re ready because the team is used to competing for important things,” he added.
Before training Monday, he summoned the players for a meeting in the locker room that lasted nearly half an hour.
Real Madrid’s Croatia midfielder Luka Modric declined to comment on the contents of the conversation.
“I cannot say what we have talked about, but we have talked. When something goes wrong we have to talk as we have done as a family,” Modric said at a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s match.
Following the meeting, all Madrid players took the field to gear up for the Champions League clash, expect for Spanish midfielder Marcos Llorente, who has recovered from an abductor injury he has been struggling with for nearly a month.
Llorente is expected to be ruled out of Madrid squad alongside captain and defender Sergio Ramos, who will serve a two-match ban for forcing a yellow card in the first leg of the last-16 of the tournament the Spanish team has dominated recently and could be the only way to rescue its season.
In the first season without Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined Serie A Juventus, nor French coach Zinedine Zidane, Barcelona sunk Madrid at the capital team’s Santiago Bernabeu.
It all started on Feb. 27, when Barcelona defeated Madrid 3-0 in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal, having played for a 1-1 draw in the first leg, to knock out the capital team from the tourney. Barcelona is set to take on Valencia in the Cup final scheduled for May 25.
The second defeat came thanks to a first-half goal by Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic in La Liga action.
The defeat did not only add fuel to Madrid fans anger, but it widened the gap between leader Barcelona and third-placed Madrid to 12 points, giving a further blow to the capital team’s La Liga title hopes.
This means Madrid title option are limited to the Champions League, the tournament it has won a record of 13 times, including four out of the most recent five editions of Europe’s elite club tourney.