Roma-Real Madrid: Solari with much to think about - Bale, Isco...
Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari has been left with plenty of food for thought after Saturday's defeat to Eibar. Asensio, Bale, Isco...
Saturday's damaging LaLiga defeat to Eibar halted Real Madrid's recent revival under Santiago Solari, and has in one fell swoop plunged Los Blancos back into a state of crisis. Ahead of Tuesday's Champions League match away to Roma, the Argentine now has plenty to think about...
Bringing Bale to the boil - or benching him
Having started four of Solari's five games in charge - only missing the Copa del Rey trip to Melilla - Gareth Bale has enjoyed protected status under the new boss. He gave the ball away 21 times against Eibar, won it back once, and had just the two attempts on goal on his way to drawing a resounding blank. Yet he got the full 90 minutes. Solari's public warning shots to the player appear to have been just words. Only Zinedine Zidane has actually gone through with benching him.
Kickstarting Asensio's season
Marco Asensio was the other chief recipient of the blame, after a display in which he made fewer passes than any other member of the starting XI (21, of which 16 were successful). Restored to the line-up after two games on the bench - and following on from his recent assertion that others in the squad must bear a greater weight of responsibility - the forward once more failed to rise to the challenge of his elevation in the pecking order this term. Lucas Vázquez waits in the wings.
Dealing with Casemiro's absence
A sprained ankle will keep Casemiro out until mid-December, and Solari's decision to draft Dani Ceballos in for the Brazilian in Eibar was a strange one. He recovered possession nine times, but was overpowered time and again in the midfield battle, winning 30% of his duels. Casemiro's natural replacements are Marcos Llorente, who was left out altogether, and Fede Valverde, who didn't get off the bench. The Madrid coach should give them a go.
The Isco issue
Isco has been a substitute in each of Solari's five matches. Under Julen Lopetegui, the Andalusian had played 50% of Madrid's game time (he was the 13th-most used player in the group), but had been a starter in the crunch clashes (the UEFA Super Cup, Roma, Barcelona...). Since Solari was handed the reins, Isco has featured for just 11% of Madrid's minutes and has been the 18th-most used.
Tightening Madrid up at the back
19 goals against in LaLiga is Real Madrid's worst defensive record at this stage of the league season in a decade. Solari simply has to get more out of his side at the back. In the past two games, against Celta Vigo and Eibar, the European champions have conceded no fewer than five. When it comes to defending, the 42-year-old's call for his side to show "balls" has not hit home.