MADRID: With nine wins out of 11 since Santiago Solari replaced sacked coach Julen Lopetegui, Real Madrid should be full of optimism yet there was evident apathy from supporters and local media as they flew out to Abu Dhabi to defend their Club World Cup title.
Only 55,000 supporters made it to the 81,000-capactiy Santiago Bernabeu stadium for Saturday’s 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, despite it being a local derby and the club’s final home game of the year.
The low attendance was not a one-off: according to newspaper Mundo Deportivo, Real have registered their worst average attendance this season since the 2001/02 campaign.
Those who made it to the ground saw a laboured victory and turned their ire on their own players with a cacophony of boos when goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was forced to perform a double save to prevent a late equaliser for relegation-fighting Rayo.
Rayo were hammered 10-2 on their last visit to Real in 2015.
“The Bernabeu is fed up of Madrid,” said Spanish newspaper Marca.
Daily AS added: “This Madrid team is boring,” after a second consecutive narrow win for Solari’s side after last week’s 1-0 victory at basement club Huesca, in which they also had to withstand a late storm of chances.
Saturday’s scrappy win came three days after a 3-0 home defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, which prompted more loud whistles from supporters.
That was Real’s heaviest ever home European defeat, although they had already qualified for the knockout stage as group winners.
Real midfielder Marcos Llorente said he and his team mates were satisfied with their recent performances, while adding that there was room for improvement. He urged fans to show their support rather than getting on the players’ backs.
“Of course we can improve but inside the dressing room we’re happy,” he said.
“I don’t agree with booing, it makes us weaker, I’d prefer them to cheer us on. This is Real Madrid, people are used to us winning all the time, and when things don’t go well they put us under pressure, that can sometimes help but it’d be better if they cheered us instead.”
Coach Solari, meanwhile, dismissed the concerns of the fans and said the team were in fine shape.
“I was very pleased with the fans’ support during the game, they were with us but then their reaction to the final chance was normal,” said the Argentine, whose side are fourth in La Liga.
“We’re feeling very good, we have won nine games out of 11, we’ve cut the gap with the teams at the top, we finished first in our Champions League group, we’re still in the Copa del Rey and now we’re going to a tournament which makes Madrid fans very excited.”