AS Roma, Clubs, Real Madrid, Story, UEFA Champions League

Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari said he expected his team to pass another “test by fire” in Tuesday’s Champions League Group G game at Roma.

Solari won all four games as interim Madrid coach but his first game since being confirmed in the position full-time brought an embarrassing 3-0 La Liga reverse at Eibar on Saturday, in a performance just as poor as any during predecessor Julen Lopetegui’s ill-fated short time in charge.

Both Madrid and Roma have nine points each going into Tuesday’s game at the Estadio Olimpico, and the Argentine was asked at the pre-game news conference about how he views the high-stakes match.

“Every day at Madrid is a test by fire, every game, every training session,” Solari said. “Madrid has come through many tests by fire, through it’s 116 years of history. When this club falls it always recovers. That is why it is the greatest club in history. The game at Eibar was a tough blow, of course. But it is gone now. We analysed it and will try to improve what we can. But just like when we won the four games before, you move on quickly, you have another game, in another competition, in Italy, at Roma. Our focus is on that now. Football is always about tomorrow, what we can do in the next game.”

Asked for his view on Madrid captain Sergio Ramos’ criticism about the team’s attitude after Saturday’s humiliation at Eibar, Solari said he would not share what had been said within the group but stressed that he needed all his team — even the big-name attackers — to work hard in any game.

“There are things that I believe that are for sharing inside the group,” he said. “Everything in football is not about attitude, there are many factors. In football responsibility is with the individual, like in life, collective responsibility does not exist. If we all defend well and attack well, the team is better. If one does not defend, the team is worse, two don’t defend, even weaker and if three do not defend, you cannot beat anyone.”

With a hamstring injury picked up at Eibar ruling out right-back Alvaro Odriozola, Castilla centre-back Javi Sanchez, 21, will likely be the only defender on Madrid’s bench at the Estadio Olimpico.

Solari was also asked about Friday’s Der Spiegel story alleging Ramos had been involved in irregularities in doping tests carried out after the 2017 UCL final and a La Liga game at Malaga in April 2018.

“Sergio Ramos is above all an honest man,” Solari replied. “He is a symbol not just of Real Madrid, or football in general, but of sport in Spain. So it is the duty of everyone to protect him, journalism too. Journalism is about looking for the truth, especially when you are talking about someone’s honour. If the media publish or repeat information that is not correct, journalism loses its reason to be and society is left without any defence.”

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