Barcelona: The Santiago Solari effect has worn off at Real Madrid.
The Spanish club hoped they had found a coach to turn their season around when they promoted Solari from their reserve team to take over from the fired Julen Lopetegui in late October.
But two weeks after Solari guided Madrid to the Club World Cup title in Abu Dhabi, the club are back in trouble after consecutive stumbles left them far behind in La Liga title race.
Madrid are about to reach the midway point of the league season in fifth place. They are 10 points behind leader Barcelona and also trailing Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Alaves.
Madrid slumped to a humbling 2-0 loss at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday, three days after a 2-2 draw at relegation-threatened Villarreal.
Sociedad appeared to be the ideal opponent for a Madrid team needing a convincing win: they had lost four straight and were playing their first match under a new coach.
Instead, an unnecessary foul by Madrid’s Casemiro gave Sociedad an early penalty, and two more rash tackles got Lucas Vazquez sent off before the visitors scored late to crush all hopes of a comeback.
“Today everything went wrong,” Solari said.
Luka Modric, Madrid’s Ballon d’Or winner, tried to shield Solari from all the blame.
“Our coach is doing a great job, but he can’t score goals nor stop (the penalty) at the start of the match,” Modric said. “He is motivated, but we players who are on the pitch have to do things better and be more focused.
“There are several players who are not playing at their best. I have to improve and take responsibility.”
Barcelona’s 2-1 win at Getafe means they are five points clear of Atletico and 10 clear or Real.