13 times European Champions Real Madrid are on the brink of history as they gear up for a fourth successive final later in May. Despite living up to the billing as the tournament favourite, the road to the final has drawn some mixed performances. It begs the question; can Madrid go all the way?
Many indicators point to the affirmative as they boast of world class players and are without a shroud of doubt, an attacking force. There are several lessons that depicted Madrid’s campaign in the run up to this last hurdle.
- Madrid is beatable
One of the things that came out in their last six matches is that Real too has some defensive frailties. After pushing Paris Saint Germain aside in the last 16, the Los Blancos found it tough against Juventus and Bayern Munich in the subsequent rounds. Juventus mastered how to break Madrid to almost near perfection in the second leg after trailing 3-0. The tactic was to use wing play and isolate Madrid’s full backs against a taller centre forward.
This led to two quick fire goals given that height is not Marcelo and Dani Carvajal’s (both starting full backs) strong point. Bayern on the other hand used high pressing play and more penetrative passes effectively in the pursuit of goals. Ultimately, Madrid relied on hitting the opponents on counter attacks and capitalising on unforced errors.
- Ronaldo out, Madrid out?
Cristiano Ronaldo remains one of the best if not the best attacker in football today. His ability to change the shape of games single-handedly is unrivalled. However, what were to happen if he was to be contained for 90 minutes? We all know that Real can win comfortability without him but with him, they are on a different level.
Case and point is the two legged quarter-final against the Old Lady. In Turin, he was given access of space of operate on and we all know how that turned out. In the second leg, Juventus’ defence was on his trail consistently and Ronaldo was only able to score through extra time penalty.
Bayern Munich kept tabs on him over both legs by deploying tall and burly centre backs who matched him for strength and leaping ability. In the end, Ronaldo was limited to a few half chances over both ties. All that has transpired is in the past and as proven in recent finals, when it matters most, Real always mean business.