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Solari’s Real Madrid aim for consistency

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Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

After a winning start to his tenure as caretaker coach of Real Madrid, Santiago Solari will look to lead his team of superstars to a victory at Abanca-Balaidos on Sunday in what is arguably the pick of matches in the 12th round of the 2018/19 La Liga.

Solari took ‘Los Blancos’ to a 2-0 home win over Real Valladolid this past weekend, securing a first three-pointer in the Spanish top flight since they beat Espanyol in September. Real still have much work to do if they are to make up ground on the league leaders, but a win away to Celta would be a good way to head into the international break.

Celta, after their strong start to the season, have had mixed results of late but remain a dangerous prospect on their home ground. The likes of Iago Aspas, Maximilliano Gomez and Moroccan winger Sofiane Boufal will be fired up for the visit of Real and looking to knock the heavyweights down.

One of the other key matches in round 12 sees leaders Barcelona at home to Real Betis. The ‘Blaugrana’ claimed a dramatic 3-2 away win over Rayo Vallecano last Saturday night, coming from 2-1 down to claim all three points thanks to late strikes from Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez – a second of the game for the Uruguayan, who continues to shine brightly in the absence of Lionel Messi.

The Argentine master could well return from his arm injury in this match, though even his presence will not fix a leaky defence – a major cause of concern for manager Ernesto Valverde.

As for Real Betis, they have generally struggled to pose a great threat in attack and rely on keeping things tight at the back. In this regard, their North African defensive-minded players Zouhair Feddal and Aissa Mandi are key, while Ryad Boudebouz will hope to get on the ball in midfield and spark the ‘Beticos’ passing game.

Another important clash sees Atletico Madrid host Athletic Bilbao at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. Diego Simeone’s side are looking to establish themselves as the main title threat to Barca, but a 1-1 draw away to Leganes last weekend was another setback in a campaign where they have struggled for consistency.

Yet their frustrations pale in comparison to the troubles of Athletic, who were on a nine-game winless streak heading into their Liga clash away to Espanyol on Monday night and have slipped ominously toward the relegation zone. Manager Eduardo Berizzo will hope the challenge of facing Atletico brings the best out of his Basque team.


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