Sergio Ramos believes situation between Isco and Santiago Solari is 'complicated'

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Sergio Ramos

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has said the situation between coach Santiago Solari and Isco is ‘complicated’ for the club.

Since Solari’s appointment as Los Blancos boss, Isco has fallen out of favour and has yet to start a league match under the Argentine. Against Leganes on Wednesday, the Spanish playmaker was again left out of the starting XI.

Speaking after winning a prize at the Siete Estrellas sports gala on Friday, Ramos said it’s a difficult situation for Isco.

“Not every situation is reconcilable, and this is a complicated situation,” Ramos told AS.

“At Real Madrid everything gets magnified, but every player wants to play and it is up to the Coach to select the players, it is not an easy job.

“The press are constantly writing about us, talking about us, creating rumours, so we need to do our best to accompany this.

“There is always talk of a potential crisis at Real Madrid if we do not win, and that is partly the reason we are so driven to win matches.

“We had a team meeting the other day and that is what we had to do, we will not shy away from this situation.”

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Jose Mourinho looms large for Santiago Solari as Real Madrid lurch from crisis to crisis

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Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari.

If Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari knows his history, one period from his playing career might be playing on his mind right now.

The Argentine’s final season at Santiago Bernabeu was the 2004/05 campaign. That season was the last time Madrid had three full-time managers in a single season – Jose Antonio Camacho resigned a month into the season, replacement, Mariano Garcia Remon, lasted only three months before being sacked and Vanderlei Luxemburgo took over for the rest of the season.

It’s unlikely that Solari remembers the season fondly, and if he does dwell upon it at all, he might be worrying over whether history is about to repeat itself, at his expense.

His own reign started well enough, as Solari became the first Real Madrid manager to win his first four games in charge in nine years after replacing the doomed Julen Lopetegui in October. He’s even won a trophy, as Los Blancos coasted to their third- straight FIFA Club World Cup triumph. And his overall record isn’t poor – 12 wins, three losses, one draw.

Yet it’s unlikely that anyone higher up at the club has been overly impressed. Solari has given them little reason to be. Most of those 12 wins have been unconvincing, as they’ve struggled to put away teams they should be beating with little fuss. And the losses have been galling: 3-0 to Eibar, 3-0 at home to CSKA Moscow – their worst-ever home defeat in the Champions League – and most recently, 2-0 at home to Real Sociedad this past weekend.

Between Solari and Lopetegui, Madrid have already lost as many league games this season as they did during all of last season. And last season was one of the club’s poorest seasons in recent memory.

Madrid have managed just 26 league goals, middle of the road compared to the majority of the league and just better than half of Barcelona‘s total. Their goal difference of plus three is pedestrian – the top three of Barca, Atletico Madrid, and Sevilla are at 30, 13, and 13, respectively.

Players are underperforming, across the board. No offence to Vinicius Jr., but if an 18-year-old in his first season at the club is the team’s best player, there’s an issue.

Karim Benzema has hardly been the lead striker everyone was hoping he would be in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure, Marco Asensio’s development has stalled, as has Isco’s, Luka Modric looks far from Ballon d’Or form, and Gareth Bale remains in and out of the side due to injuries.

Sergio Ramos continues to talk a good game off the pitch, but his form has dipped ever so slightly on it. Marcelo’s defensive liabilities at left-back are no longer being made up for by attacking brilliance often enough. Casemiro often looks like he’s fighting a lone battle defensively, and when he’s having an off day, Madrid fall to pieces.

Isco is the most alarming case, because Solari doesn’t seem to trust the playmaker at all, and being denied an extended run in the side has lessened the Spaniard’s impact. When he takes to the pitch he still shows flashes of his talent, dribbling past players or pinging passes to anyone he can find, but all of it seems to now happen without him having any real influence in a game overall.

And while all this is happening, a slow-burning crisis that never seems to end, the spectre of Jose Mourinho has now been thrown into the mix. His sacking at Manchester United may have hit his reputation somewhat, but Madrid president Florentino Perez remains a fan and though he may have burned some bridges during his last spell in charge at the Bernabeu, his pedigree means he’ll still be a more trusted figure than Solari.

As things stand, extending the historic run of three straight Champions League titles looks unlikely. Ajax have enough in them to exploit Madrid’s vulnerabilities – they went unbeaten in a group that included Bayern Munich, holding the Bundesliga giants to two draws. And the 10-point gap to La Liga leaders Barcelona is more or less insurmountable, even in a surprisingly competitive league.

At the very least, bringing in Mourinho would be a shock to the system that could serve to jolt Madrid’s players back into form, after a season in which they’ve been drifting along from one crisis point to the next. He would instantly demand more.

It could combust, as it did at United, and at Madrid six years ago. But what’s the point in ambling along for the rest of the season?

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Next two months crucial to Real Madrid and their Champions League qualifying hopes

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Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari.

In the past seven days, Real Madrid shared points with 18th placed Villarreal and lost 2-0 to the then 16th placed Real Sociedad. In the process, they lost star midfielder Toni Kroos to an injury which could rule him out for up to four weeks.

It would not be hyperbole to state that the worst is probably yet to come for the European champions. All of their next eight opponents in La Liga are currently sitting in the top half of the table.

Here, we look at eight matches that are crucial to Los Blancos’ Champions League qualifying hopes.

REAL BETIS v REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture – N/A

Santiago Solari’s men begin their demanding stretch of games at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday as they take on a Real Betis side brimming with confidence.

The same fixture saw Madrid prevail in a 5-3 thriller last season but the hosts did trouble Zinedine Zidane’s men and dominated the game for large spells. A win at Villamarin will not be easy for Madrid.

Predicted score-line: Real Betis 2-2 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v SEVILLA

Reverse fixture: Sevilla 3-0 Real Madrid

Next, Madrid host Sevilla – a team who beat them 3-0 in September and set the ball rolling for their crisis. Despite the fixture being played at the Bernabeu, the visitors start as favourites, given the recent form of both teams.

Predicted score-line: Real Madrid 1-2 Sevilla

ESPANYOL v REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture: Real madrid 1-0 Espanyol

Los Blancos then travel to Catalonia to face eighth placed Espanyol. When the same fixture was played at the Bernabeu back in September, the hosts edged the Barcelona-based team 1-0. However, Madrid should be able to dispose of Rubi’s side who are in poor form themselves.

Predicted score-line: Espanyol 0-2 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v ALAVES

Reverse fixture: Alaves 1-0 Real Madrid

Fourth placed Alaves will be Solari’s next test on February 2. Abelardo Fernández’s men will travel to the Spanish capital, hoping to repeat their performance at the Mendizorrotza earlier this campaign when they edged Los Blancos 1-0 to steal all three points.

Predicted score-line: Real Madrid 1-1 Alaves

ATLETICO MADRID v  REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture: Real Madrid 0-0 Atletico Madrid

Following this is the Madrid Derby at the Wanda Metropolitano where Diego Simeone’s men wait eagerly to get one over their historic rivals. The pair played out a goalless draw at the Bernabeu in September – a result Atletico gladly took. The hosts will hold the advantage in this game, if the current form of both teams is anything to go by.

Predicted score-line: Atletico Madrid 2-1 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v GIRONA

Reverse fixture: Girona 1-4 Real Madrid

Girona will be Real Madrid’s next challenge. This will probably be the least complicated fixture for the European champions. They host a team they beat 4-1 away back in August. There is no reason why Solari’s men should not romp to a comfortable win here, given Girona are struggling and could be out of the top 10 soon.

Predicted score-line: Real Madrid 3-1 Girona

LEVANTE v REAL MADRID

Reverse fixture: Real Madrid 1-2 Levante

Los Blancos then travel to Valencia to take on Levante on February 24. The Granotas pulled off an upset at the Bernabeu earlier this season, winning 2-1. The visitors owe this score-line to terrible finishing and could have had at least two more goals on the board in that fixture.

Predicted score-line: Levante 1-1 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID v BARCELONA

Reverse fixture: Barcelona 5-1 Real Madrid

At the end of this terrible stretch lie league leaders Barcelona on March 3.

Madrid are guilty of a terrible home record against Barcelona in the league recently, with the last three score-lines reading 0-3, 2-3 and 0-4 – all in favour of Barcelona.

Predicted scoreline: Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona

VERDICT

This will be Madrid’s first encounter with Betis this season. But against the other seven teams, Los Blancos managed to garner just seven points out of 21 in the reverse fixtures.

If the predicted score-lines – which are balanced between optimism and pragmatism – are considered, Los Blancos will collect around 10 points from these fixtures.

Surely the next two months will be crucial in determining whether the European champions will be enjoying Champions League football next season.

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