January 8, 2019 / 2:56 PM / in 4 months

Soccer: Madrid must focus more in early stages of games, says Solari

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari has called on his under-performing side to halt their tendency to concede early goals as they look for some relief from their floundering La Liga campaign against Leganes in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Real Sociedad - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - Janaury 6, 2019 Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari gestures. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Madrid fell behind in Sunday’s shock 2-0 home defeat by Real Sociedad with a goal in the third minute, and conceded the opening goal in last week’s 2-2 draw at Villarreal with a strike from Santi Cazorla in the fourth minute.

The triple European champions also had a habit of letting in early goals under Solari’s predecessor Julen Lopetegui, conceding within the opening 10 minutes of three matches before the Spaniard was sacked at the end of October.

“We have to pay more attention in the opening minutes, it’s something we all know we have to improve on,” Solari told a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s last 16 first-leg clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“Leganes are a very solid, competitive team so we’ll have to be aware of their speed when they counterattack us, and we’ll have to make sure we take our chances in attack.”

Madrid last won the Copa del Rey in 2014 but as they are 10 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona and outside of the Champions League places, the competition is looking like being their best shot at salvaging their season with some silverware.

“The Copa del Rey is a fantastic trophy and we’ll approach this game with the same excitement as we do every competition. We try and put all our energies into every competition, each one has its own characteristics,” added the Argentine coach.

Solari said there was a chance new signing Brahim Diaz could play against Leganes but it would depend upon whether he was registered on time after completing a 15-million-pound ($19.10 million) transfer from Manchester City on Sunday.

Solari was also asked how he felt about injured forward Gareth Bale leaving Sunday’s defeat to Sociedad 12 minutes before the end, but he refrained from criticising or defending his player.

“These are things we deal with internally,” he said.

($1 = 0.7853 pounds)

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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