Real Madrid’s 3-0 victory over Juventus on Tuesday was a masterful Champions League display, right from Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2nd minute opener through to Marcelo’s cleverly timed run to add the third and likely decisive goal.
The 2017/18 season has been a disappointing one for Los Blancos, Zinedine Zidane’s job hangs by a thread after they surrendered their Spanish crown without any sort of defence, yet, just as the season enters its most crucial phase, Los Blancos are hitting form once again and positioning themselves to lift the European Cup for a third successive season.
There’s no doubt that Real Madrid are a world class football team, the individual quality is almost unrivalled across Europe, yet they are so well suited to knockout football, they know exactly what to do to progress in the Champions League.
Few expected them to eliminate Paris-Saint Germain, yet they did. On the biggest stage they seem to come alive and this is an annual occurrence.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s over-head kick was the highlight of Tuesday’s match, it’s incredible that he keeps producing on this stage. His goals in Turin saw him break another record as he became the first ever player to score in 10 consecutive Champions League matches.
As impressive as Juventus are defensively, Los Blancos found a way through them with ease, there seems to be no stopping Real Madrid once it gets to the later rounds of the tournament.
Zidane has been left frustrated by his team’s domestic failures this season, he’s since set his team a goal of winning every remaining fixture in their campaign up to, and including, the Kiev final on May 26th.
Players who have previously struggled this term are all of a sudden finding their top level, Casemiro was imperious in midfield against Juventus, as was Marcelo at left-back.
With the teams left in the tournament, you’re now thinking that Los Blancos are the best placed to win the competition yet again, that would save their season.
It’s amazing how the team seems to be able to find their best form when it matters most, year after year. Gareth Bale wasn’t even utilised on Tuesday.
The French coach has struggled to find his best team all season, his rotation options have consistently let him down domestically and as such he’s simply stopped using them in important matches.
Whilst the overall view of their La Liga season will be negative, the fact they are so far away from the title race has given the former Bordeaux playmaker the opportunity to rest key players for European ties.
Ronaldo didn’t make the trip to Gran Canaria to face Las Palmas last weekend, Isco wasn’t risked either and even Sergio Ramos sat out.
All three players were then starters in Turin and they were arguably Los Blancos’ three best performers.
On the topic of Isco, the Spanish midfielder has been left out of the team on a regular basis of late, yet he’s called upon for an incredibly difficult away tie in Italy and he instantly delivers. There is incredible motivation amongst the players to perform in the Champions League.
Nacho Fernandez has suffered an injury at the worst moment, he’s likely to miss a significant period before the end of the campaign, however Jesus Vallejo has taken his opportunity.
The young defender was phenomenal in the victory over Las Palmas, he did everything competently and didn’t look out of place in the senior team. This display came as he made his first appearance for months, no matter a player’s circumstance, being part of a Real Madrid team after March seems to bring out the best in them.
Barcelona has the potential to win the treble and remain unbeaten throughout the entire La Liga season, this would be the ultimate humiliation for Florentino Perez and Real Madrid, yet they could also trump the Catalan club’s achievement by making more Champions League history.
No club had ever retained the trophy in the modern era until Zidane’s charges defeated Juventus in Cardiff last season, now they are in position to win it a third time, effectively making the current squad a dynasty.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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