Solari hunts silverware
Real Madrid head to Catalunya on Thursday night for a second leg Spanish Cup tie against out of sorts Girona. Los Blancos are far from reaching their usual high standards this season which means the odds have hit a welcome spike for this fixture.
Steadying the ship
Since the sacking of Julen Lopetegui last October, ex-Real midfielder and Champions League winner Santiago Solari has stepped in as interim manager and brought an improvement to results. Things are by no means rosey for Real at the moment, but they’re still challenging on three fronts, and look significantly more confident in maintaining a top three finish in La Liga.
Expect the big guns to start
Expectations are understandably always high at Real, and it’s true that Solari is by no means breeding ultimate confidence amongst the Madrid faithful, but then it’s generally considered that he’s a bulwark until they can bring someone more high profile and experienced in the summer.
Maintaining a steady set of results is a requirement, silverware would a bonus. But no reasonable person in the wings at Madrid is holding their breath.
New Year's Resolutions
Real got 2019 off to a shaky start, only taking one point from a possible six with a 2-2 draw away to Villareal and an unexpected 0-2 loss to Real Sociedad at home. Since then they’ve registered three consecutive wins in La Liga, and despite slipping up 0-1 to Leganés in the second leg of their previous cup tie they’re looking a lot more convincing.
They haven't won since November
Girona on the other hand will have wanted to do better in the New Year. After a miserable month of December that registered two draws and two losses, the Catalan club’s faithful in the stands will have hoped for more, but it sadly hasn’t been the case in 2019.
The Girontes have replicated the same form which means they’ve only taken four points from the last eight and haven’t posted a win since November.
Bigger fish to fry
Girona have gradually slipped down the table as a result of their poor form. They’ve slid from a secure seventh to fourteenth in just a matter of weeks, although La Liga is ridiculously tight this season with only eight points between the relegation one and seventh place Valencia.
It means Girona can’t afford to fight on two fronts and head coach Eusebio Sacristán will want to secure their position in the league at the expense of the cup.
It’s true that Real stumbled away in their last Copa del Rey round of 16 fixture against Léganes, losing by a single goal 0-1 on the night but going through over two legs. Real have the same two goal lead from the first match ending 4-2, but Solari will be warier now and want to tie a knot in it. Expect the big guns to start.
The Champions League is likely out of reach for Real this season, as is La Liga. Solari will fancy his chances in the Copa del Rey, a title that hasn’t been won by Madrid since 2014.
The fact is Real Madrid have been less than predictable this season and the odds are higher than usual factoring in mixed form as well as their capitaluation in the second leg away to Leganes last round. Nevertheless higher odds on Real Madrid to beat a struggling Girona are too tempting to resist.
That’s why I’m backing Madrid to win the match with Coral at higher than normal odds of 3/4 (1.75).