Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari defended forward Gareth Bale on the eve of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal second leg at home to FC Barcelona on Wednesday night.
Bale has been criticized recently in the Spanish press for presumably not integrating in the Madrid squad, despite spending years in the Spanish capital, while his refusal to celebrate scoring the winning goal with his companions on Sunday was also seen as a sign of the Welshman lacking commitment.
However, when asked about Bale in his pre-game press conference, Solari said his focus was “on the game. It is taking up all of our attention. The first game was a good game to watch and tomorrow (Wednesday) is where we are all focusing. Gareth and everyone, we are all united and want to win,” he said.
Solari rejected accusations of indiscipline against Bale, repeating that the team was “focused on the game. There are a lot of things to focus on and we are not looking at anecdotes. There are a lot of good places to look and we are looking at the game.”
“Our aim is to enjoy the match and to get to the final, we have earned that right thanks to hard work,” he insisted.
After the 1-1 draw in the Camp Nou three weeks ago, Madrid have a slight advantage in the tie as Barca have to score at least once in the Bernabeu in order to have a chance. Leo Messi (who started the first leg on the subs’ bench) will lead the Barca attack after scoring the 50th hat-trick of his career at the weekend.
However, despite the obvious threat Messi poses, Solari said his players were not afraid of facing the best player in the world.
“That word (fear) doesn’t exist in football. We enjoy competing and a footballer’s view is to enjoy themselves,” he concluded.