It’s Niall here bringing you all your Los Blancos news on Wednesday.
23:13 – No Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid starting XI
There is no place for Brazilian teenage sensation Vinicius Junior in the Real Madrid starting XI for their Champions League trip to Viktoria Plzen.
Read more here.
20:55 – Real target Skriniar won’t leave Inter for less than €100m
Milan Skriniar made the headlines for all the right reasons on Tuesday night after an incredible defensive performance in Inter Milan’s Champions League draw against Barcelona at the San Siro.
Skrinar has drawn interest from the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
And head coach Luciano Spalletti insisted the Slovak won’t leave Inter for less than €100m – before joking that he wouldn’t mind a €40m tip to go with it.
Read more here.
19:12 – Iniesta has sympathy for Lopetegui
Former Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has voiced his support for sacked former Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui, who he holds in high regard.
Iniesta had shared a strong bond with Lopetegui during the two years of the latter’s tenure as La Roja coach.
Read what the former Barca player had to say about Lopetegui here.
15:00 – Check out these skills from Vinicius Junior
13:00 – Eleven hours until kick off
11:00 – The curious case of Isco
We take a look at why it might be a make or break for the Spaniard.
9:00 – Final preparations before tonight’s game
Los Blancos players trained last night at Doosan Arena ahead of their Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen (kick off 00:00 UAE time).
Santiago Solari will not hold back Real Madrid‘s 18-year-old striker Vinicius Junior but insists the teenager still needs time to mature.
Excitement around the €45 million summer signing is growing, particularly after it was his shot that inspired Madrid to a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Vinicius came off the bench at the Santiago Bernabeu and many believe he now deserves a place in the starting line-up against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League on Wednesday.
“We’re all excited,” said Solari, who is in charge at Real on a temporary basis, after Julen Lopetegui was sacked last week.
“He’s very young and has his whole future ahead. He will be a complete footballer in the future and when a player is ready, he will play. It doesn’t matter about the manager, no-one can hold back the talent.
“But we have to take it slowly. He has a lot of things to learn, of course, but he also knows things you can’t teach. He is raw and his football transmits happiness.”
Solari knows Vinicius well from his time coaching Madrid’s B team, Castilla, this season.
Like the Brazilian, Solari has been promoted after Lopetegui was dismissed and two wins on the bounce, the other against Melilla in the Copa del Rey, have helped restore morale.
But he says he remains in the dark as to how long his role as interim coach may last.
“I am committed to my role, whether that be for two more days, or a week, just the same,” he said at Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.
“In football the solutions and problems are never just one thing, whether it is going well or not. We have played two difficult games, which we had to play well to win.
“You do not win games if you do not do things well. We have to do the same tomorrow in a different competition.”
Defender Nacho said Solari had helped lift the players, but still offered support for Lopetegui.
“It is never easy when a club changes coach,” he said. “Solari has come from within and has started well. The players are happy with him but it is not our decision to make (whether he stays).
“Lopetegui was one of the best coaches I have had, a great coach, and wherever he goes he will have success for sure.”
Lopetegui received a stay of execution by beating Plzen in the reverse fixture on October 23 and despite their domestic struggles, Real go into Wednesday’s game level on points with Roma at the top of Group G.
“This competition is very close to the history of our club,” Solari added. “When the anthem is played, we all get excited. It is great to return to this competition.”
The two share a special bond which can be traced back to 2013’s Under-21 World Cup, a tournament which Spain won with Isco as main man and Lopetegui as head coach.
That same duo were prosperous at senior level. In the Lopetegui-era, Spain were virtually unbeatable and Isco emerged as one of Europe’s finest playmakers.
Naturally, the 2018 World Cup qualifiers were navigated with ease and the pair were justifiably credited with their success.
The key was in allowing Isco a free role to attack space high up the pitch. He was given a licence to stretch play, drop deep or move centrally if required and La Roja’s play was geared toward getting him on the ball.
Isco thrived with the responsibility and so when Lopetegui took the Madrid job prior to the World Cup, it was assumed he would be the poster boy for a new-look Madrid.
With Cristiano Ronaldo departing the club for Juventus, it would be Isco who could help fill the void.
Zidane was never really his biggest supporter and at times he was often ignored by the Frenchman, yet now he was being afforded the opportunity to thrive as the leading man. This season demanded he embrace that accountability, but who better to coax the best out of Isco than Lopetegui, right?
Curiously, he was actually deployed as a left-sided attacker under the now deposed boss. To his credit, Isco adjusted because his versatility across the forward line is what makes him one of the more unique talents in Europe.
And in further support of his influence, Madrid’s sharp decline domestically and in Europe coincided with his spell on the sidelines with appendicitis. He could only watch on as a blunt Madrid attack went on one of the worst droughts in the club’s history.
In his absence, they were humiliated 3-0 by Sevilla, struggled to a 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid, beaten 1-0 by CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and also lost to La Liga’s surprise package Alaves.
Strangely, however, his return to fitness did not bring about an instant revival. Levante snatched all three points at Santiago Bernabeu and even European lightweights Victoria Plzen were able to land a blow in the Champions League.
In that game, Isco was substituted ahead of El Clasico and it was for that fixture they so desperately needed him to be on his game. The XI was built around him and he failed miserably, managing only two key passes from his 78 touches – the second highest for Madrid in that 5-1 demolition.
Results would indicate Isco is the difference maker, after all they failed to win a single game when he was injured and won five when he was in the starting line-up.
Yet, you get the sense he is still operating nowhere the level he’s produced for the national side. Ultimately, Isco is in two teams which have been built around him, but for one he’s not been able to display the same level of authority and freedom.
With Gareth Bale struggling for form and fitness and Marco Asensio not progressing in the way envisaged, Isco simply has to fill the creative void for interim boss Santiago Solari.
He can start, by helping to swat aside Viktoria Plzen when they travel to the Czech Republic on Wednesday night.