Santiago Solari knew that life as Real Madrid manager would not be an easy ride, but following his first defeat last weekend, he now faces a huge La Liga clash against Valencia on Saturday.
The defending European champions were defeated 3-1 away at Eibar in La Liga Game Week 13, ending Solari’s honeymoon period of four unbeaten games in all competitions since taking over from Zinedine Zidane.
The Argentinian welcomed back first team stars Raphael Varane and Marcelo to his defence, following injury, but they were unable to keep Eibar out at the Estadio Municipal de Ipurua.
Luis Suarez gave Barcelona fans a reminder of his goal scoring brilliance, with a hat-trick in the 5-1 La Liga win over Real Madrid on Sunday. Simply out, Suarez tipped El Clasico in Barca’s favor.
Suarez netted a first half penalty, given after the referee consulted with VAR following a foul by Raphael Varane, before two expertly taken goals in the second half sealed the win for Ernesto Valverde’s side.
Much of the pre-match talk was on the absence of Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi through injury, but Uruguayan international Suarez reminded the world exactly what he is still capable of.
Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine legendary footballer Lionel Messi have dominated world football over the years with their supreme consistency and match-winning abilities.
However, it has all changed this season with Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric awarded the FIFA Men’s Player of 2018 award at the expense of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who were the other 2 finalists on the podium. It was all the more shocking considering the fact that Lionel Messi was not nominated amongst the Top 3 nominees for the first time since 2006. Not only this, the Croatian even went on to pip the Portuguese supremo and Liverpool’s maestro for the UEFA player of the year award on the back of an incredible season.
The Santiago Bernabeu wore a festive look with the club supporters in a state of excitement. It seemed as if Christmas had come early. There was every reason to believe so with their beloved team Real Madrid all set to battle it out against fierce rivals Barcelona at home, trailing the latter by just 3 points. A win at home had every chance of generating the momentum necessary for a league challenge.
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique had opted to rest Argentine superstar Lionel Messi who had been a major threat in previous fixtures scoring goals and assists with great splendour which was nothing short of music to the ears. At the same time, Spanish manager Rafa Benitez had fielded a lineup consisting of some of the most attacking minded midfielders in the business like Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is hardly the man expected to take a decision from his heart. The 71-year-old enjoys a reputation of being extremely cold-hearted and emotionally detached when it comes to taking decisions catering to the interests of the club. Some of the finest managers in football history like Carlo Ancelloti, Jose Mourinho, Vicente del Bosque, Rafael Benitez will willingly testify to the fact that dealing with a shrewd tactician like Perez is no mean feat in itself.
There was an unnatural sense of excitement in the air as journalists whispered furiously amongst themselves at the end of an emphatic 3-1 win for Spain against Italy in the semifinals of the UEFA European U-21 Championship conducted in 2017. While the hero of the night undoubtedly was Atletico midfielder Saul who smashed a hat-trick under pressure, there was another youngster who had caught the eye with his spectacular performance, bewitching the audience with his tricks and mesmerising gameplay.
It was none other than 20-year-old Real Betis midfielder Dani Ceballos who made heads turn with his patience, vision and a perfectly weighted assist for Saul’s opener despite the presence of established players like Gerard Deulofeu, Héctor Bellerín. Italian midfielder Roberto Gagliardini lost his mind completely when nutmegged by Ceballos, going to the extent of knocking him to the ground in a desperate attempt to salvage some pride earning him a red card.
“This club has great history and we’re writing more now, as the club has done over the years. Madrid never give up,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane may be known for his hard as nails attitude but one could distinctly feel a tinge of emotion in his voice as his beloved club earned a spot in the UCL finals for the third successive season after a hard-fought win over bitter rivals Bayern Munich.
The Frenchman’s comments drew mixed responses from the experts with a certain section of the pundits perceiving his remarks as “downright arrogant” in nature. The Los Blancos certainly had the perfect response in store with a dominating 3-1 win in the Champions League finals over cup challengers Liverpool, emerging as the only side to lift the illustrious trophy for 3 consecutive years.