The Spanish giants will no doubt be licking their wounds from their comprehensive defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu against Ajax but a return to domestic action provides an opportunity to move on from an unceremonious elimination from European competition.
Their season appears destined to end without silverware and speculation of an imminent managerial change is rife but league proceedings must still be navigated to arrest this slide.
LAST CHANCE SOLARI
It hasn’t been all bad under Santiago Solari. His appointment following Madrid’s stunning decline during Julen Lopetegui’s brief reign did pull the team out of a nosedive before they could spiral out of control.
A former Los Blancos player himself, Solari injected young blood into Madrid’s aging first team but the cracks remained and over the past fortnight, it all unravelled with a series of disastrous results. Back-to-back El Clasico defeats eliminated them from the Copa del Rey in the semi-finals and extinguished any slender hopes of mounting a late title charge.
Finally, a 4-1 capitulation at home against a vibrant young Ajax side ended a three-year defence of their Champions League crown in midweek. All the while, Solari has stood helplessly on the sidelines as calls for a new man at the helm grow in decibel.
Madrid travel to Valladolid having lost four of their last five games in all competitions. Solari will not be given the reins next season, this much is certain. Further embarrassment though may well lead to an undignified exit for the former Castilla coach.
Such is Madrid’s desire for a change of script that a recall for Jose Mourinho – sacked by Chelsea and Manchester United in the last four years – is firmly on the table. Solari must at the very least steer the club to a Champions League berth for next season without any drama in order to avoid a premature departure which could tarnish his managerial career while still in its infancy.
A REAL MESS
Every dark cloud has a silver lining and while this season slips away from them, at least Madrid can consider themselves fortunate to meet a side enduring an even worse run than their own on Sunday.
Valladolid have been slipping perilously close to the drop zone in recent weeks, picking up just one point from the last five outings. Madrid may be all over the shop in defence, but it would take a special kind of incompetence from their back-line to be stretched by Sergio Soriano’s side.
La Albivioletas have scored just once in their last five games and hold the worst scoring record in La Liga this season having managed just 20 goals so far.
At an average of 0.77 goals per game, Valladolid’s lack of creativity and dearth of goalscorers means a swift return to the Segunda Division is growing increasingly likely.
BRAHIM’S TIME TO SHINE
Solari’s faith in youth has been one of the bright sparks during his time in charge and he would do well to further that narrative while he’s still in the job. With Vinicius Junior injured, he could call upon another burgeoning talent in Brahim Diaz.
Spoken in the same breath as the likes of Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden during his time at Manchester City, much is expected of the 19-year-old attacking midfielder. Madrid are sorely lacking in creativity from midfield, evidenced by the fact that crossing from wide areas seemed to be their only mode of attack against Ajax.
Given the current mood at Madrid, there’s nothing like the emergence of a prodigal young talent to lift spirits and generate renewed hope for the future. Diaz’s decision to leave City was fueled by his desire for first team action and now would be the ideal time for Madrid to offer him just that. The young Spaniard could make for a welcome distraction from a rare, trophyless season.
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