Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari has challenged Gareth Bale to “eat the stage every time he plays” after he starred in their win over Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday.
Madrid travel to Celta Vigo in La Liga on Sunday, looking to continue a revival that has included three wins out of three since Solari took temporary charge.
As the team’s form fell away under Julen Lopetegui, so did Bale’s, the winger following up a strong start to the season with just one goal in eight games.
An adductor injury contributed to Bale’s dry patch but he was excellent against Plzen in the Champions League, scoring one and setting up another for Karim Benzema in the 5-0 victory.
“I like him everywhere,” Solari said on Saturday. “What Bale has to do is eat the stage every time he plays, just like he did against Viktoria Plzen.”
Solari’s time allowed as an interim coach will expire over the international break, meaning this weekend’s match against Celta is his final audition for a longer stay in charge.
A fourth consecutive win is likely to earn him the job, at least until the end of the season, particularly given the lack of obvious alternatives available.
Solari played down the game’s significance on his future. “Each game is final for many reasons,” Solari said. “If you lose points you cannot recover. I just focus on the next game. Longer-term work is outside my role.
“My role is to think about facing the next match with maximum concentration.”
One player to have lost out under Solari is goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who had been picked in the Champions League under Lopetegui while Thibaut Courtois played in La Liga. Solari, however, has plumped for Courtois in both competitions so far.
“Keylor is a strong man,” Solari said. “He has behaved perfectly. He is a very well-respected player in the dressing room.”
Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Raphael Varane are all out injured meaning Alvaro Odriozola and Sergio Reguilon are likely to continue against Celta at full-back, with Nacho in central defence.