With five straight wins behind them, Real Madrid begin a daunting four weeks at the Camp Nou tomorrow night. During this time, the world champions have three matches against Barcelona, both Champions League legs against Ajax, and Saturday’s derby against Atletico to contend with. Despite suffering through a very difficult season so far, Madrid fans will be cautiously optimistic heading after their side’s performances over recent weeks. Not only have results been great, but key players such as Ramos, Benzema, and Modric are starting to find their best form again. The emergence of 18-year-old Vinicius has also lifted the mood across the entire club.
Three months after Lopetegui’s fate was sealed with a 5-1 loss there, tomorrow’s match at the Camp Nou will offer a gauge of how much progress Real Madrid has made under Solari and what we can expect from them until the end of the season. During the Argentine’s time in charge so far, the fixture list has been very kind apart from a few moderately challenging matches like Sevilla at home and Roma away. Now that Solari has had three months to put his mark on the team, his first truly tough match against Barcelona will show how they can cope against tougher opposition. For all the pessimism that surrounded the club earlier in the season, Madrid still has three competitions left to fight for until June. If they can win in Barcelona tomorrow, it would not only put them in pole position to win the Copa del Rey, but also set down a marker going forward in La Liga and the Champions League.
Tomorrow’s match will also be crucial for a number of Real Madrid’s players and in shaping Solari’s team selections. At left back, Solari has consistently preferred Sergio Reguilon over the much more accomplished Marcelo so far. Reguilon’s better defensive contribution is the main reason for that decision, but the Spanish fullback will face his toughest test if Messi is declared fit to start. If he has a tough match tomorrow, that would pave the way for Marcelo to reclaim his place heading into the crucial stage of the season. The Clasico will also offer Vinicius his first chance to establish himself on the biggest stage. With the likes of Asensio, Isco, and Lucas Vasquez all challenging for that position, a good display from the Brazilian teenager would cement his place on the wing for the upcoming Champions League matches.