MADRID (Parlay Game) – Everyone at Real Madrid, it seems, is quite ready to face Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.
Even Gareth Bale.
Bale's involvement in the team has been questioned since he failed to celebrate his goal this weekend, pushing his team mate Lucas Vazquez off ahead of return to the middle of the field. His attitude sparked a wave of criticism and rumors that he disagreed with the rest of the team.
But with two straight games against Barcelona this week – the first Wednesday with a spot in the Copa del Rey final – Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari was quick to spread any idea of the problem within the team.
"We are 100% focused on tomorrow's match," Solari said Tuesday. "Bale and the rest of the players are fully focused, we are all united and we have the same goal, which is to reach the final."
Real Madrid have the advantage of being absent at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium after a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in the first leg three weeks ago.
Wednesday 's game will be the second game in three between rivals in less than a month. The teams will meet at Bernabeu Saturday in the Spanish league. Barcelona has a comfortable seven point lead over Atletico Madrid and a nine point lead over Real Madrid.
Barcelona is the defending league champion and will win an unprecedented fifth title for the Copa del Rey. Madrid won the league in 2017, but not the cup since 2014, when she beat Barcelona in the final.
Bale has rarely played as a starter with Madrid, losing his place in the formation for the benefit of Brazilian striker Vinicius Junior.
Bale appeared to be upset when Solari selected Marco Asensio as their first substitute in the 2-1 win at Levante on Sunday. After finding that he had not been chosen, the Wales striker had stopped warming up and had returned to the bench, staying there for a few minutes until Solari finally asks him to enter the match.
He scored the team's second goal after a shot on goal and did not celebrate the win, moving Vazquez away from him and only briefly touching the hands of his teammates when he returned to midfield.
Vazquez's image of Bale "Escaping" made headlines in Spain the next day and forced Solari to evade several questions about it during his press conference on Tuesday.
Rear veteran Marcelo had recently explained that he could still communicate only in English with Bale, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois mentioned that the attacker had recently missed one of the group dinners because he wanted to go to bed early.
Bale practiced normally with the rest of the team on Tuesday, however, not stating that he would not be included in the team for the match. However, it was unlikely that he started. In the first leg, Solari started with Vinicius Junior in the formation and Bale on the bench.
Lionel Messi is a player who will start on Wednesday. He has just won a superb performance in Barcelona's 4-2 win against Sevilla this weekend. He managed a hat trick and set another goal to rebound after a series of mediocre performances. Messi did not play all the first leg against Madrid because of an injury to his right leg.
Solari said that there was no reason to fear Messi, regardless of his level of play.
"That does not exist for football competitors," Solari said. "Those who are in competition are always there to fight."
More football Parlay Game: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni