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'Vinicius has to be in Real Madrid team before Bale' - Mendieta urges Solari to keep faith in teenager

16:31 SAST 2019/01/16
Vinicius Junior Real Madrid
The 18-year-old is braced to lead the Real Madrid attack for a second straight game in the Copa del Rey against Leganes

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari has been urged to keep faith with Vinicius Junior amid the teenager's growing presence with Los Blancos.

The 18-year-old has started the last two La Liga games and begun as a central striker alongside Karim Benzema - who suffered a fractured finger during the game - in the 2-1 win over Real Betis.

Vinicius is likely to lead the attack for the Copa del Rey round-of-16 second leg against Leganes on Wednesday - though Solari has gone on record saying Benzema is the club's only recognised No.9.

The Frenchman has undergone surgery but will play through the pain barrier as Real look to reassert themselves in pursuit of a Champions League place.

Former Spain international and Valencia midfielder Gaizka Mendieta wants to see Vinicius given a more prominent role in the Real first team, even if it comes in a wide role.

"He definitely brings something different to this Real Madrid team, they are playing with a player that is different," the 44-year-old told Eleven Sports.

"No-one does those runs, passes and moves, takes on defenders or opponents like he does or the way he does at the moment.

"That is why he has to play every game at the moment for Real Madrid. He is a key player.

"Lucas Vasquez is totally fit and Bale is totally fit. It is the decision for to the manger Solari who he thinks is the best player for each match.

"If they're all fit I think [Gareth] Bale would be first choice but the way Vinicius is playing for Real Madrid he has to be in the team before anyone.

"People mention Isco all the time, but if you've got this guy why play with Isco?"

Welshman Bale has only featured once this year due to a calf problem which Solari insists is not serious, but will keep him out against Leganes.

Vazquez and Isco are expected to start in the wide positions, with Vinicius playing through the middle as Real bid to protect their 3-0 win from the first leg at the Estadio Municipal de Butarque.