MADRID, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — Santiago Solari will make his debut as Real Madrid coach when his side travels to play third tier side, Melilla in the Copa del Rey knockout tournament on Wednesday night.
42-year-old Solari, who was on Monday confirmed as the provisional replacement for the sacked Julen Lopetegui, held his first training session with the first team at the club’s ‘Valdebebas’ training ground on Tuesday morning.
With Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Mariano Diaz and Rafael Varene all sidelined though injury, Solari called Javi Sanchez, Alex, Fran Garcia, Sergio Lopez and De la Fuente up from the Real Madrid Castilla squad he was in charge of until Monday evening.
The former player will almost certainly use the trip to the Spanish enclave on the north coast of Morocco to give minutes to some fringe players in the Real Madrid squad. However, with morale at a low point following Lopetegui’s sacking and the 5-1 defeat to FC Barcelona, he is no doubt aware of the need for a positive result, even though the two-leg format of the Cup would allow Madrid to correct any slip-up in the return leg in the first week of September.
Vinicius Jr. will be the player who captures the most attention in Melilla and it will be interesting to see if Solari gives a start to the 18-year-old Brazilian, who Lopetegui sent to the Castilla squad in order for the youngster to gain experience.
Vinicius has made four appearances under Solari’s guidance with Castilla, scoring four goals and he could well be given a chance against a side which plays in the same category as the Madrid B-team.
Other players such as Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Dani Caballos also look likely to start in Melilla, along with Keylor Navas in goal.
Other games on Wednesday see Cup holders FC Barcelona visit Cultural Leonesa, while Valencia travel to Ebro, Mallorca host Valladolid. Sant Andreu, the only fourth tier side remaining in the knockout tournament, entertain Atletico Madrid.