Al Ain: Real Madrid head into the ongoing Fifa Club World Cup in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi next week in abject disarray following their biggest ever home defeat in Europe 3-0 to CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.
Los Blancos had already won Group G and fielded a weaker team but still started with the likes of Courtois, Marcelo, Isco and Benzema.
Goals from Chalov, Schennikov and Sigurdsson handed the Russians their second win of the campaign over Real, but they still finished last.
It was Real’s first home Champions League defeat in nine years and follows their worst start to a season in 17 years, after which coach Julen Lopetegui was replaced by Santiago Solari in late October. Real are fourth in La Liga five points behind leaders Barcelona heading into Saturday’s home tie with Rayo Vallecano.
They will arrive in the UAE on Sunday in search of a third straight Club World Cup title to take their overall tally to a record four, pulling away from Barcelona, with whom they share the current joint record.
On current form however, nothing is guaranteed. They could play Kashima Antlers in next Wednesday’s semi-final in Abu Dhabi Zayed Sports City from 8.30pm in a repeat of the 2016 Club World Cup final, which they almost lost having been pushed into extra-time by the Japanese.
Then in the final at Zayed Sports City from 8.30pm on December 22, they are tipped to play Solari’s old side River Plate, who have just overturned Boca Juniors in an all-Argentine Copa Libertadores final in Real’s own stadium in Madrid last Sunday.
Given that Real have lost eight of their total 24 games so far this season across all competitions (six under Lopetegui, two under Solari, and five more than they had lost at this stage last season), the chances of a South American side upsetting European dominance for only the fifth time in 15 years remains high. No side from any other continent has won the Club World Cup.
“I head away sad with the result and because we were sure we’d close out the group with a win,” said Solari of his side’s latest loss to CSKA.
“I have to take responsibility for picking a lot of young players, but it’s helped us rest the players we needed to. It’s a two sided coin because we’re not happy with the result because we were confident of winning the game,” added the Argentine, whose side still go into Monday’s Last 16 draw as a top seeds having won their group.
“We’ve now switched our focus to the Rayo game, which is the next match, and then the draw on Monday. There are a lot of games before the Champions League knockout stage,” he said, still refusing to be drawn on next week’s Club World Cup semi just yet.
Of Isco’s confrontation with Real fans after the CSKA game, he said: “I didn’t see him confront the fans. It’s frustrating to lose at home and we didn’t expect it. The fans expressed themselves because they didn’t like what they saw, the same goes for us.”