Real Madrid have stormed through to the final of the Club World Cup, defeating Japanese Asian Champions League winners Kashima Antlers 3-1.
An 11-minute hat-trick by Gareth Bale secured Real’s place in the final, where they will face UAE Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain.
Real will go into the final as favourites, however this season has thrown a couple of surprises. Real have fallen to weaker opposition on more than one occasion and facing Al Ain on their home soil will be far from a simple task. However, a strong performance will indicate that Real have improved under new manager Santiago Solari, giving fans hope that their start to the season was a one-off.
Saturday night’s match gives Solari the chance to win his first piece of silverware at the club. A loss would be a disastrous outcome for the Argentine. Despite only recently being hired, managing Real Madrid is one of the toughest jobs in world football, due to the heavy pressure and expectation. Regardless of if Solari is only being considered for the remainder of the season, he needs to make sure that Real perform at their best.
Jose Mourinho has recently joined the market, and should Real Madrid not improve this season, he would be one of options to replace Solari.
Mourinho previously managed the Spanish giants from 2010 until 2013 and won a La Liga crown during this time.
Los Blancos are currently sitting in fourth position in La Liga and are five points behind leaders Barcelona. The competitiveness of La Liga this season means that they are not guaranteed a top-two finish.
Saturday night’s Club World Cup final is important for both Real and Solari and despite its naysayers, the tournament is another FIFA sanctioned competition.
Real are expected to win the Club World Cup and failure to do so will add to team’s tough season to date. It will be the first step in restoring the dominance that Real have lost this season, and Solari can put his name into the good books with a trophy.