Gareth Bale is back on the bench for Real Madrid‘s crunch game at home to Ajax in the second leg of the Champions League last 16.
Bale had started the defeat to Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday but the Welshman departed to whistles in the second half and has been dropped for the return against Ajax, with Madrid 2-1 ahead from the first leg.
Isco came on against Barca but is not even named on the bench while Marcelo is again named as a substitute, Sergio Reguilon preferred at left-back.
Ajax start with an unchanged side from the opening leg, with Frenkie de Jong set to play at the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time. De Jong will join Barcelona in the summer.
Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro has come out in defence of under-fire manager Santiago Solari.
The Argentine has come under scrutiny for Madrid’s underwhelming performances in the last few weeks and his poor man-management, especially in outcast Isco’s case.
Los Blancos were recently eliminated out of the Copa del Rey faced two defeats in the league to virtually knock them out of the race. The pressure on the manager has been immense ever since.
Casemiro defended his coach and stated that Solari had a good relationship with all the players, just like Zinedine Zidane did.
“It would be unfair to single out one coach,” he responded to the Brazilian TV channel Esporte Interativo, as cited by Marca.
“[Jose] Mourinho, Ancelotti, Zidane, Rafa Benitez… Each one had their own important characteristics.
“With Zidane he had a lot of relationships with the players, a father-son relationship. Like a friend.
“Solari does the same, he is being fair to everyone.”
Casemiro is aware that Madrid are not in the best place right now but showed optimism for a reversal in fortunes.
“It’s normal for a team to have low moments,” he added. “We’re growing now.
“Now comes the most important thing [the Champions League].”
Gareth Bale‘s agent has suggested Real Madrid supporters should be “ashamed of themselves” for jeering the Wales international in Saturday’s El Clasico loss to Barcelona.
With Madrid suffering a third consecutive home defeat for the first time in 15 years, large sections of the Bernabeu crowd booed Bale as he was replaced in the 1-0 reverse.
The loss leaves Santiago Solari’s side 12 points adrift of their bitter rivals, who sit top of La Liga as they aim for a fifth title in the last six years.
Former Tottenham winger Bale has had success in Spain since leaving for Madrid in 2013 – winning the Champions League on four occasions and scoring in two finals, including twice in last season’s victory over Liverpool.
It is for moments such as those that Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, feels the player should be shown the “greatest of respect” by Madrid fans.
“This generation of Real fans will be talking about Gareth’s goals for years to come,” Barnett told Sky Sports News.
“Frankly they should be ashamed of themselves. Gareth deserves the greatest of respect.
“The way the Real fans have treated Gareth is nothing short of a disgrace. In the six years he has been in Spain, he has won everything.
“He is one of the best players in the world. Those fans should be kissing his feet.”
The 29-year-old has had added pressure this season following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.
There have been suggestions he is still unsettled in Spain and is cut-off from his team-mates, a view not helped by the fact he refused to celebrate his winning goal against Levante recently.
But Barnett rubbished such reports and insists Bale is intending to stay beyond the summer and not look for a move away.
“Despite what the Spanish press are reporting, he’s happy,” added Barnett.
“He speaks reasonable Spanish and there is no problem between him and the rest of the Real players. The people writing these things know nothing about him.
“There has not been one single discussion about Gareth leaving Madrid. He isn’t going anywhere this summer.”