Santiago Solari

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Solari shares blame for Real Madrid debacle with players

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MADRID (AP) Amid speculation that his days are numbered, Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari dished out some of the blame for the team’s disastrous season to his players.

“The majority (of my players) have honored this club’s emblem, and those who haven’t have been told so personally by me,” Solari said on Saturday, four days after Madrid was humiliated by Ajax in the Champions League, following devastating defeats to Barcelona in the Spanish league and Copa del Rey.

The usually tight-lipped Solari did not name which players he thought had failed to meet his standards. But since taking over from Julen Lopetegui in late October, Solari has clearly not been pleased with either the attitude or performances of several once-important players.

Defender Marcelo has been sent to the bench, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio are no longer starters, and Spain midfielder Francisco “Isco” Alarcon has seen several matches from the stands after being dropped from Solari’s squad.

Asked about Isco, Solari responded: “Disciplinary questions are handled internally. (But) to play you have to first be in shape and ready to play competitively.”

Rumors are rife in Spanish media that Madrid may not wait until the end of the season to fire Solari after back-to-back homes losses to Barcelona and a stunning 4-1 defeat to Ajax on Tuesday that ended Madrid’s campaign for a fourth consecutive Champions League title. Former Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who has been without a job since being fired by Manchester United, leads the list of potential replacements.

Solari, who has a contract through 2021, said he was still committed to seeing out the remaining 12 matches of the campaign but struck a philosophical note.

“All of us here, we are just passing through,” Solari said. “And in this job that is even truer. But the most important thing for a team and a coach is the next match. It has always been an honor to serve this club.”

That next game comes on Sunday at Valladolid, with Madrid a distant third place to league leader Barcelona.

Report: Jose Mourinho to take over at Real Madrid

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Real Madrid is going back to the well. The Jose Mourinho well.

The Special One seems to have been given an audition at the highest level, as Goal.com reports that Mourinho will take over at Real Madrid after Los Blancos were eliminated from the Champions League to cap an embarrassing 10 days.

Madrid lost two El Clasicos with Barcelona in one week, falling in league play and in the Copa del Rey. After dropping 12 points behind Barcelona in the league table, the lone competition remaining for Madrid to hang its hat on was the Champions League. However, they bombed out of that too, falling to Ajax 4-1 in the Round of 16 to end their three-year run as Champions League title holders. After the dust had settled, defender Dani Carvajal summed up the disastrous stretch, saying, “our season is over.”

Now, with little to play for except securing next season’s Champions League place, the report states that Real Madrid will axe current manager Santiago Solari and install Mourinho as the new Madrid boss through the end of the season. It will be Mourinho’s second stint in charge of Real Madrid, having led the Spanish giants from 2010-2013, winning the league title in his second season but fell in the semifinals of the Champions League in all three years.

Mourinho has seen his managerial career slip over the past four years during his time in the Premier League. After winning the Premier League title in 2015 in his second season back with Chelsea, he was dismissed the following December with the club off to a disastrous start to the year. He joined Manchester United but failed to return that club back to its glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson, winning the Europa League and the EFL Cup but unable to push the Red Devils back up the league table. He was dismissed back in December of 2018 with the club 19 points off the lead.

Since his dismissal from Manchester United, the Red Devils have climbed back up the table under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, leaving Mourinho with further egg on his face.

The Goal report states that Solari will be dismissed after this weekend’s match against Real Valladolid and Mourinho will be immediately installed as manager. If true, Solari will have lasted less than a year in the position, taking over on an interim basis for Julen Lopetegui in October and installed as permanent manager two weeks later. Goal goes on to report that Mourinho will be installed as manager through the end of the season, although the club’s first choice as long-term boss is the hope of convincing Zinedine Zidane to return.

Pain, devastation, expletives: Real Madrid deals with Champions League failure

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Real Madrid didn’t expect this, which is probably why they will not become the four-time defending champions of the UEFA Champions League.

Real led 2-1 after the first leg in Holland, the two away goals enough that captain Sergio Ramos purposely took a yellow card to serve his suspension in the second leg instead of risking an absence later in the tournament.

[ MORE: Match recap | Ajax reacts ]

Instead, Dusan Tadic and Ajax tore Real apart at the Bernabeu, using a 4-1 second leg win to send the Madrid side out of the competition.

Real is not sure how to react to such a loss. Dani Carvajal said it’s all about of an “(expletive (rhymes with Gritty) season.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever had this feeling of pain,” Carvajal said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s never easy to bounce back from two defeats against Barcelona and two errors put us 2-0 down, however 3-0 killed us.”

The vicious Real Madrid media will come the players and staff with knives out, and the men under the microscope are clearly preparing for it with some opening salvos in the opposite direction.

Here’s Nacho, via the BBC:

“We’re devastated. It’s very complicated. We’re not used to being at this stage of a season with practically no title left to play for. … La Liga’s practically impossible, we’re out of the Copa and the Champions League. It’s tough.”

As for interim boss Santiago Solari, who was credited with a new manager bump — and deservedly so — when he took over for Julen Lopetegui, he’s looking for answers as well.

Solari even admitted that Real missed Ramos, though he’s keeping perspective. After all, Ramos was there for all 180 minutes when Barcelona beat Real twice in four days.

And maybe, just maybe, Solari being a part of Real’s legacy of winning makes him the man to do the job moving forward (though we doubt Florentino Perez is going to have the patience for that with Jose Mourinho on the market).

“The season is difficult, but we are here to show our heart and character in difficult moments,” added Solari. “Easy moments are easy for everyone, you can climb up and surf them, but difficult moments you have to show bravery. … Madrid is bigger than any of us. It always returns, and returns even stronger.”

Solari backs Bale after dismissive goal celebration

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Santiago Solari is defending Gareth Bale after the substitute shrugged off teammates after scoring late in Real Madrid’s win on Sunday.

“He gave us the win, he got the goal and can celebrate it as he wishes,” Solari said.

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Bale, 29, has come off the bench in four of five La Liga matches since returning from injury, scoring in three of those appearances as Real now sits third, nine points back of Barca and two behind Atletico Madrid.

He finished a penalty on Sunday, but stopped himself from reacting positively, instead pushing away Lucas Vazquez’s arm on a run back to midfield.

Solari is not worried. From Marca:

“He was happy in the dressing room because he scored,” Solari said afterwards. “I loved how he entered the pitch with rage and the way he played. He won us the game and did a great job. I though he was fantastic.”

Bale has 13 goals and five assists for Real this season, his sixth since arriving from Tottenham Hotspur. A return to the Premier League has been mentioned for some time, especially now since Bale has not become a featured performer for his new manager even though Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus.

Real Madrid suffers worst home Champions League loss

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Real Madrid rested several big name players for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League visit from CSKA Moscow, having already acquired a spot in the Round of 16.

You could very much tell, as Real suffered its heaviest home loss in UCL history.

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The three-time reigning champions were waxed 3-0 at the Bernabeu, giving the home crowd little to cheer.

Thibaut Courtois allowed all three goals, and probably won’t appreciate his work on at least two of the three.

Federico Valverde, Jesus Vallejo, Vinicius Junior, and Javier Sanchez got starts despite having a total of 22 appearances this season, with Toni Kroos, Dani Carvajal, and Gareth Bale coming off the bench and both Raphael Varane and Luka Modric unused subs.

Georgi Schennikov, Arnor Sigurdsson, and Fedor Chalov scored for CSKA, leaving Real manager Santiago Solari disappointed in his depth players and stars alike.