Solari's first 100 days as Real Madrid coach
One hundred days is generally accepted as a reasonable bedding-in time for politicians when they accept a new role and has been deemed enough time for the rest of us to see intentions and working methodology. Santiago Solari has now spent 100 days as first team coach of Real Madrid after previos incumbent Julen Lopetegui's time came to an end after a 5-1 El Clasico demolition at Camp Nou (with Barça missing Messi to boot that day). There were doubts about the starting goalkeeper, no Vinicius, Reguilón or Marcos Llorente regularly playing for the first team and a squad that still had the hallmarks of suffering with a post-Cristiano Ronaldo era syndrome.
Times have changed
One hundred days later and things have changed. After that game at Camp Nou, Madrid trailed Barça by seven points in LaLiga and despite the current gap being eight points the general feeling and style of play under Solari is totally different. Tonight's game is the first leg of a Copa del Rey semi-final, a competition that Real Madrid have struggled in traditionally (Alfredo Di Stéfano only one won Spanish cup in his eleven years at the club as a player and Madrid have won more European Cups/Champions Leagues than Copas del Rey since the inception of the European competition in the 50s). The gap in the domestic league may be a bridge too far for Real Madrid and there is always an element of chance in the Champions League so reaching the semi-final of La Copa is a great chance for the club to add to the silverware collection.
Solari made the transition to the first team from Real Madrid Castilla as did Del Bosque and Zidane before him, all joining the team with after a slump and with limited experience at managing. As with his two aforementioned predecessors, the Argentinian has shown that he is adept at managing a dressing room with plenty of ego. He's not been shy to make unpopular decisions and has also been anxious to blood younger as is the case with Vinicius and youth products Llorente and Reguilón. He's relegated Isco to the role of bit part player and was quick to bench Marcelo when it was felt that the Brazilian was culpable of failing in his defensive capacities. Time will also tell on how he handles the situation with Gareth Bale when the Welsh striker is fully fit. Tonight's game offers a major test for the Argentine coach and it will be interesting to see how his side fare against a Barcelona team with or without Messi.