Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Santiago Solari urges Real Madrid to focus on the present, not on closing down Barcelona

European champions, are on a five-match winning run in La Liga, take on Girona at the Bernabeu on Sunday

Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari speaks to the media ahead of the Primera Liga match against Girona. EPA
Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari speaks to the media ahead of the Primera Liga match against Girona. EPA

Santiago Solari has said Real Madrid are only focused on the "here and now" as the European champions look to continue their Primera Liga revival against struggling Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Since a shock home defeat to Real Sociedad at the start of January, Madrid have won five successive league matches - including a 3-1 win away to Atletico last time out . Their city rivals reclaimed second place with a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night, although Madrid can leapfrog Atletico with a win against 17th-placed Girona.

Additionally, leaders Barcelona stretched their lead over their bitter rivals to nine points on Saturday night with a 1-0 victory over Valladolid, but a win for Madrid over Girona will close the gap back to six points with 14 matches remaining.

Despite making up ground on Barcelona in recent weeks, Solari is aware that the destiny of the Liga title is out of Madrid's hands, as the Argentine stressed the importance of focusing solely on the next match.

"That doesn't depend on us. What we can control is when we take to the pitch tomorrow at 12 noon (3pm UAE)," Solari told a news conference on Saturday.

"We've got the motivation to go out and compete and do a great job to secure the three points in front of our fans, who we hope will get up early and come down to the stadium.

"Football is all about the next game, and the here and now. We're all focused on this important match and the team go into it with a good competitive spirit.

"We just focus on our daily work and the most important link that ties all professionals to their club is always the willingness to give your all."

One player who has been central to Madrid's recent good run of form is teenage winger Vinicius Junior.

The 18-year-old Brazilian has been a revelation since breaking into the first team under Solari having signed for Madrid last summer for €46 million (Dh198m) from Flamengo.

He was key to the win over Atletico - winning the penalty for the second goal - before creating Karim Benzema's equalising goal in the Uefa Champions League last-16, first leg win over Ajax on Wednesday.

"He's a very young lad, with a really bright future ahead of him," Solari said. "We're all really happy for him and with him.

"All of his teammates help him and both he and the rest of his teammates deserve real praise for the way in which they support him and enhance his game."

While Vinicius has been receiving plenty of plaudits, the same cannot be said of Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who has been criticised for what many viewed as a deliberate yellow card during the 2-1 win in Amsterdam.

European football governing body, Uefa, are investigating comments Ramos made, when he suggested he got booked on purpose, however Solari has defended his captain by insisting the comments have been misunderstood.

"We're not the ones who draw up the rules," he said. "I'm not going to speculate on subjective situations. Sergio Ramos has given the relevant explanation and he clearly stated that he was talking about forcing the foul and not a booking.

"The action in itself tells you all you need to know and that's all there is to it. What's more, it was a tricky question to answer. We're not thinking about forcing yellow cards and are only focused on the next game and going out and competing."

Updated: February 17, 2019 11:22 AM

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