Real Madrid head coach Santiago Solari said that his team’s efforts to rediscover their best form would not be a “path of roses”, after CSKA Moscow dealt the club their heaviest-ever European home defeat on Wednesday.
The Champions League holders crashed to a 3-0 loss to the Russians at the Santiago Bernabeu, although they had already qualified as Group G winners before kick-off.
“I played a team with a lot of young players,” said Solari, who made seven changes to the starting XI which beat Huesca 1-0 in La Liga at the weekend.
“The match was used to give many players time who needed it, some because they started and others because they returned from injury, and to give rest to others to try and stay alive in all competitions.”
Real have struggled for much of this campaign after seeing coach Zinedine Zidane and star player Cristiano Ronaldo leave in the close-season, with Julen Lopetegui sacked as boss in October.
But a revival has started under Solari, with four wins in five games closing the gap to La Liga leaders Barcelona to five points.
“I know it’s not a path of roses, and besides, every rose has its thorns,” Solari said. “We don’t like this result; we wanted to finish with a victory.”
Real will now turn their attentions to Saturday’s league match at home against Rayo Vallecano.
The memorable victory was useless to the Russians as they still crashed out of the UEFA Champions League Last 16.
They finished bottom of Champions League Group G as Viktoria Plzen beat Roma.
The Russian side, who also downed Real 1-0 in the reverse fixture, had to better Plzen’s result to finish third and qualify for the Europa League.
But Plzen edged out Roma 2-1 in the Czech Republic to render CSKA’s famous victory ultimately meaningless, despite inflicting the heaviest ever European home loss on the record 13-time champions.
“It’s sad to say the least to beat Real Madrid, earn seven points, but finish bottom and get eliminated from Europe,” said CSKA coach Viktor Goncharenko.
“But we only have ourselves to blame. In any case, we’ve made sure we’ll spend the holidays in a great mood after tonight’s win.”