Captain's absence fuels Ajax hope

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos (centre) attempting to intercept a pass during training at the Valdebebas training complex in Madrid yesterday. The defender will be suspended for the Champions League last-16, second-leg tie against Ajax. Real lead 2
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos (centre) attempting to intercept a pass during training at the Valdebebas training complex in Madrid yesterday. The defender will be suspended for the Champions League last-16, second-leg tie against Ajax. Real lead 2-1 from the first leg in Amsterdam.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ramos' ban boosts Dutch team's ambition of overturning 2-1 deficit against struggling Real

MADRID • Santiago Solari's future is likely to hinge on Real Madrid winning the Champions League.

But, with the team's deficiencies laid bare in back-to-back home losses to Barcelona, his side are staring at the possibility of their campaign being a total write-off.

After being knocked out of the King's Cup and 12 points off the pace in Spain's LaLiga, a third loss in as many games against Ajax today in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie could see the three-time defending European champions' season being wiped out in a week. Real lead 2-1 from the first leg.

Real's players are feeling the pressure, with defender Dani Carvajal admitting: "It's probably been one of the toughest weeks in my time here."

For the first time in 15 years, Real have suffered three consecutive defeats at their Santiago Bernabeu home, starting with Girona's comeback win and followed by the Barcelona double blow.

With Real captain Sergio Ramos suspended after his deliberate yellow card in Amsterdam, Ajax believe they can profit from the defender's absence after the Dutch FA also lent them a hand by postponing their weekend league match to leave them fresh for the trip.

PUT IN A SPOT

When you put him (Bale) on the left, the kid doesn't produce or suffer. On the right too. As second striker too.

PREDRAG MIJATOVIC, ex-Real Madrid player, on Gareth Bale's best position.

Frenkie de Jong, who will join Barcelona in the summer, is eager to further endear himself to the Nou Camp faithful by inflicting more pain on their rivals.

The Netherlands midfielder told Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad: "Real Madrid are obviously the favourites (but) maybe Sergio Ramos will regret it if Ajax pull off an upset on Tuesday."

But the 32-year-old Ramos feels he still can guide his teammates from the sidelines.

Issuing a rallying cry to "continue working and keep winning games", he said: "We have another final in the Champions League on Tuesday and we will fight for it."

However, it is not only in defence that Real have issues, with Gareth Bale also woefully off form, having failed to complete 90 minutes in LaLiga since the end of November.

Former Real forward Predrag Mijatovic has questioned the output of the Wales forward, who was heavily booed by fans in both Clasico meetings, claiming he "has not delivered as he should" since arriving in 2013 as their club-record signing.

He told Spanish radio station Cadena SER: "I want to ask a question, 'Can anyone explain what position is ideal for Bale after five years?'.

"It's that when you put him on the left, the kid doesn't produce or suffer. On the right too. As second striker too.

"Five years (on) and I'm not able to explain myself, in what position you should put him."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2019, with the headline 'Captain's absence fuels Ajax hope'. Print Edition | Subscribe