MADRID, March 9 (Xinhua) — Real Madrid will try to pick up the pieces after one of the toughest weeks in the club’s history when they visit Valladolid on Sunday night.
Tuesday’s humiliating exit from the Champions League after a 4-1 home defeat to Ajax came hot on the heels of two home defeats to Barcelona which left Madrid out of the Copa del Rey and with no real options of winning the league.
The Spanish press report coach Santiago Solari was close to being sacked on Tuesday night and speculation is not now about whether he will survive, but who his replacement will be, with the shadow of Jose Mourinho growing ever-longer over the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Solari may cling on until the end of the season, but it’s also possible he could be sacked next week and failure to win on Sunday will certainly provoke his immediate exit.
But the Ajax defeat has also brought other issues to the surface with a dressing room argument between club president Florentino Perez and central defender Serio Ramos.
Ramos missed Tuesday’s defeat through suspension after deliberately provoking a booking to ensure he’d be free of yellow cards in a theoretical quarterfinal. But according to the press, that didn’t stop him giving a training ground talk to demand his team-mates show commitment until the end of the season.
The defender is also suspended for Sunday and joins a long list of absentees as Solari looks to keep his job, at least for the short term.
Vinicius Jr, Madrid most incisive player in recent matches, is out with an ankle injury, as is Gareth Bale, while Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal will miss around a month each with muscle problems and Manuel Llorente is nearing the end of his recovery from a groin strain.
Those absences will see Alvaro Odriozola in at right back, while Marco Asensio and even Isco, who has been virtually ostracized by Solari, could also make the starting 11.
Valladolid have troubles of their own with six points from their last 11 games seeing them sink towards the relegation zone and the club owned by former Real Madrid hero Ronaldo Nazario could decide to sack their coach Sergio Gonzalez in the case of a defeat.
Despite the absences, Real Madrid still have a stronger side than Sunday’s hosts, for them the game is not so much a test of skill, but of the will to win and commitment to their coach and their club.