Real Madrid have always been the masters of Europe. Their love affair with the Champions League is a well-documented story. It all started in 1955 when they were one of the founders of a tournament called 'European Cup'.
They won the first five editions of the tournament. Today, that tournament is known as the UEFA Champions League and Real Madrid have won it a record 13 times. They are obsessed with the competition. Despite their erratic league form and a poor season by their standards, they could still win the continental crown this season.
The three reasons why Real can win their fourth consecutive title
#3 They have been here before
Barring the 2016-17 season, when they completed the La Liga and Champions League double, it has been the same story with Real Madrid for the last four or five seasons. Since 2010, they have won the league only twice. They would always start the season with high hopes, get knocked out in Copa Del Rey and ultimately handover the La Liga title to a rival club. But, they would always compensate for all by winning the UEFA Champions League, the biggest club competition in the world.
This season too, things are pretty much the same. The La Liga title race is effectively over. In Copa Del Rey, Real Madrid faces Barcelona on Wednesday in the second leg of the semi-final at the Bernabeu. If they go on to lose that match, there would only be one trophy left to play for; the Champions League. Past evidence suggests Real are more than capable of turning a disastrous season to a fruitful one. They have been here before and have done it. They can surely do it once again.
#2 Peaking at the right time
Real Madrid collected a single point from the opening two league games of 2019. Since then, their form has changed dramatically; winning nine games, losing twice and drawing once in the process. They have risen from ninth to third in the league. In this stretch of matches, they have finally started playing like a champion team. The players are better both physically and mentally. They have faith in their coach.
Toni Kroos looks to be back at his best. Luka Modric is finally playing like a Ballon d' Or winner. Sergio Ramos is always as his imposing self. Reguilion has made everyone forget Marcelo. Youngsters like Dani Ceballos, Alvaro Odriozola, Marcos Llorente are giving the starters a run for their money.
Real have started dominating the big games, keeping possession and dictating play. They are showing a new found hunger to win these games. A hunger for which they are known and which was missing in the earlier part of the season. At the Camp Nou, they returned with an entertaining 1-1 draw along with a priceless away goal.
After that, they went on to beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 at their home turf. Goals from Casemiro, Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale did the job. In their third away game in a row, Real defeated an inexperienced yet exciting Ajax side 2-1. By scoring two away goals in Amsterdam, they have effectively put one foot in the quarter-final.
#3 An attack which can lead them to glory
Real Madrid's attack comprises of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez, Mariano and the young starlet Vinicius Junior.
They may not be world class players but, on their day, they can be quite dangerous. In fact, with Vinicius's pace and Benzema's positioning, they can open up any defence. In recent weeks, Vazquez and Vinicius have been preferred over Bale and Asensio as they track back and defend also. Vinicius's direct style has made him a fan favourite. With four goals and six assists this season, the eighteen-year-old Brazilian is improving day by day and has finally started to justify his €45 mil Euro price tag.
Lucas Vazquez is Solari's favourite player. Recently, he scored the opener in a 1-1 away draw in El Clasico. His versatility means that he can also be deployed as a wingback or as a wide midfielder. With his hard work and tenacity, he has become a key cog in this Real Madrid attack. Starting ahead of Bale underlines his importance to the team.
After the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema has been the focal point in attack. His performances have significantly improved. His growing partnership with Vinicius Junior is worth noting. It seems as if they had been playing together for years. They have combined multiple times to score some beautiful goals. Benzema often considers himself a 'striker' with the soul of a 'playmaker'. His intelligent runs, link-up play, and his ability to hold onto the ball could prove to be very useful in the latter stages of the Champions League when Real would face the top teams of Europe.
Having substitutes like Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio is a luxury only Real Madrid could afford. In the 2018 Champions League final, Bale reminded everybody that it may be too early to write him off. He has the potential to kill a game anytime, as he demonstrated in the 3-1 win against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Marco Asensio also scored a winner of his own in the 2-1 win over Ajax. Mariano hasn't been given many opportunities this season but when given one, he would love to make the most of it and show why he has inherited the famous no '7' jersey. And, of course, never forget Sergio Ramos in stoppage time.
In a single match or a two-legged tie, Real have shown time and time again that they can beat anyone. Now, whether are they capable enough of lifting another European Cup, only time will tell.