Champions League last-chance saloon for Real Madrid again this season

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-04 20:41:44|Editor: ZX
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MADRID, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid take a drink in the last-chance saloon on Tuesday, as Santiago Solari's under-pressure side entertain Ajax in the return leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie.

Madrid take a 2-1 lead into the game at the Bernabeu, but will go into the match under enormous pressure after seeing their chances of winning both La Liga and the Copa del Rey disappear in the space of just four days.

The word 'crisis' is sometimes used too often at Real Madrid, where there is often no middle ground between triumph and disaster, but on this occasion it is fair to say that Real Madrid are most certainly in crisis.

Saturday's defeat to Barcelona was their third consecutive setback in front of their own fans and ended with several players being booed and Solari receving criticism in the press, who have already begun to name the usual suspects to succeed him in the summer.

To be fair to Solari, his brief tenure has seen some young players, such as Marcos Llorente, Vinicius Jr and Sergio Reguilon, take massive steps forward in their development, with Vinicius the driving force in the Madrid attack and Reguilon looking assured at left back.

However, weighed against the progress of the youngsters, some of Madrid's biggest names are massively underperforming; Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos have all come in for criticism, while Isco is hardly getting a look in under Solari.

Real Madrid will defend a 2-1 first leg lead in the Bernabeu on Tuesday, but would do well to remember how lucky they were to claim that win in Holland, before they become over-confident against a rival that travels to Spain needing to score twice.

It is true that the Champions League usually generates a different atmosphere in the Bernabeu, but those three home defeats have hit Madrid fans hard and they will be in no mood to forgive any mistakes.

Llorente is still out with a groin strain, while Sergio Ramos begins the first of a two-game suspension for deliberately forcing a yellow card in the first leg. No doubt the Madrid captain deliberately looked for a booking three weeks ago with the aim of sitting out this return leg to ensure he was card-free for the quarter-finals, but given the current situation perhaps Ramos shouldn't have been quite so over-confident.