So­lari aims to make clos­ing ar­gu­ment for per­ma­nent job

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

San­ti­ago So­lari is pitch­ing for more than just three points as Real Madrid con­tinue their re­vival un­der the in­terim coach and head to Celta Vigo aim­ing for their fourth straight win.

So­lari’s time as the Eu­ro­pean cham­pi­ons’ stop-gap fol­low­ing Julen Lopetegui’s sack­ing will ex­pire over the in­ter­na­tional break, and club pres­i­dent Florentino Perez needs to de­cide whether to take the Ar­gen­tine on per­ma­nently. Real have bounced back un­der So­lari, with Wed­nes­day’s 5-0 drub­bing of Vik­to­ria Plzen a clear sign of life in the strug­gling gi­ants.

A win at bounc­ing Balai­dos could well be enough to con­vince Perez the job should be So­lari’s, at least un­til the end of the sea­son, when a more es­tab­lished al­ter­na­tives could be avail­able.

“We’re do­ing fine with him,” striker Karim Ben­zema said on Wed­nes­day. “I don’t see a coach com­ing for one or two months, for me So­lari has to stay un­til the end of the sea­son. He’s a great coach. Now we have more con­fi­dence and we are go­ing to fight.”

Few could be­grudge So­lari the op­por­tu­nity to prove him­self af­ter step­ping up from Madrid’s B team to take charge.

Madrid have scored 11 and con­ceded none since So­lari’s ar­rival, against ad­mit­tedly mod­est op­po­si­tion — Melilla from the Span­ish third tier, Real Val­ladolid at home and Plzen.

Luck has also played its part, as Vini­cius Ju­nior’s de­flected shot pre­vented what looked set to be a stale­mate against Val­ladolid with seven min­utes to play. A draw there and So­lari’s ten­ure might never have got off the ground.

How­ever it was So­lari’s de­ci­sion to bring on the 18-year-old Vini­cius, whose youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance pro­duced an am­bi­tious strike at the end of a weav­ing run. Celta will of­fer a sterner test this week­end. They are the third high­est scor­ers in the divi­sion and in Iago As­pas boast the sort of smart fin­isher Madrid might have signed in the sum­mer.

As­pas’ eight goals this term puts him one up on Li­onel Messi, who could re­turn on Sun­day when league lead­ers Barcelona host Real Betis af­ter three weeks out with a bro­ken arm.

Messi was in­cluded in Barca’s trav­el­ling squad to face In­ter Mi­lan on Wed­nes­day but watched from the stands as his side reached the Cham­pi­ons League knock­out stages with a 1-1 draw at the San Siro.

“We wanted him to travel with the team, to train to see how he was,” coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Valverde has been af­forded the lux­ury of eas­ing Messi back by his team’s strong run with­out him. Reach­ing the last 16 in Eu­rope came af­ter five wins on the bounce, four of them with­out Messi, in­clud­ing one against In­ter at home and the 5-1 ham­mer­ing of Real Madrid.

A tricky pe­riod of fix­tures con­tin­ues against Betis and ends at Atletico Madrid af­ter the in­ter­na­tional break.

Luis Suarez’s with six goals in his last five games have been in­te­gral but Jordi Alba has ar­guably been Barca’s player of the sea­son so far.

His form has forced Spain coach Luis En­rique to con­cede de­feat in his mys­te­ri­ous stand­off with the full-back, call­ing Alba up for the first time on Thurs­day.

Diego Costa and Koke missed out on the squad with in­jury as Atletico Madrid head into their clash with Ath­letic Bil­bao on Satur­day with a dizzy­ing list of ab­sen­tees.

Thomas Le­mar, Diego Godin and Ste­fan Savic were also miss­ing for Tues­day’s im­pres­sive 2-0 win over Borus­sia Dort­mund, in which Jose Gimenez pulled up with a mus­cle prob­lem.

Fix­tures (times GMT)

To­day: Real Val­ladolid v Eibar (1200), Getafe v Va­len­cia (1515), Atletico Madrid v Ath­letic Bil­bao (1730), Girona v Le­ganes (1945)

To­mor­row: Alaves v Huesca (1100), Barcelona v Real Betis (1515), Rayo Val­le­cano v Vil­lar­real (1730), Sevilla v Es­panyol (1730), Celta Vigo v Real Madrid (1945)

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