Santiago Solari - I want Bale to perform how he knows he can

Santiago Solari has challenged Gareth Bale to hit top form ahead of what could prove a defining period in Real Madrid ’ s season .

Madrid face a double -header against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi -finals in the next month , as well as two legs against Ajax in the last 16 of the Champions League .
After Alaves on Sunday , they also play city rivals Atletico Madrid in La Liga before a third Clasico at the start of March . Madrid are 10 points adrift of Barca already and cannot afford to let the gap widen further .

Bale has just come back after three weeks out with a calf injury but his return to the starting line - up is not guaranteed, given his team have won six out of their last seven matches .
“ The spotlight is always on Gareth , ” Solari said at a press conference on Saturday . “ But I see him focused, connected , plugged in .

“ I want him to perform how he knows he can , like he did in the Club World Cup and against Roma . He is an important player for us and I think he is determined to do well . ”
Madrid meet Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday , three days after the game against Alaves , but Solari was reluctant to divert focus to the contest at the Camp Nou .
He insists, however , that Madrid are used to big matches coming thick and fast at this stage of the season .

“ We are used to it , this team has experience of this at this time of year, ” Solari said .
“ First , you have to reach this stage in all three competitions , the aim is to keep all of them open .
“ We have already won the Club World Cup and we come into this period in good form , with energy, with the whole squad available , except ( Jesus ) Vallejo , who is about to come back .

“ We face this run of games with absolute tranquility . ”
Madrid were thrashed 5 - 1 by Barcelona in their last outing at the Camp Nou in October , a match that led to Julen Lopetegui being sacked and Solari installed as his replacement.
Asked how his team have progressed in the three months since , Solari said : “ We are in a very good moment . The players are training well , enthusiastic , it is down to them .
“ They are a family, they say it themselves , and I think they are doing phenomenally well . ”

( Via AFP)

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