One of the first things to come to mind when you talk of Real Madrid, apart from the vast array of global superstars of course, is their iconic stadium Santiago Bernabeu.
Los Blancos though won’t be playing any of their remaining six home matches at a stadium which has witnessed many an iconic moment over the years.
Instead, the 13-time European champions will be playing at the 6,000 seater Alfredo di Stefano stadium, located on the outskirts of the Spanish capital. The stadium has previously been used by Real Madrid reserve side Castilla as well as their women’s team.
The decision to play at the Di Stefano stadium comes as Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid’s regular home, undergoes renovations to make it even more state of the art.
Even though the redevelopments will help the club in the long run commercially and in other ways, one can’t help but think about what kind of effect it will have on the team in the remainder of the 2019/20 season which is all set to resume on June 11 with the Andalucian derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.
For all intents and purposes, the race for the La Liga crown, like many seasons before this one, has boiled down to just two teams i.e. Real Madrid and Barcelona. It is the same scenario this time with the Catalan side leading the one form the capital by a mere two points with Barcelona on 58 points compared to Real’s 56.
The title is expected to go right down to the wire and no one knows who will come out on top after the 38th game. But one variable that could have an interesting effect on the La Liga title equation is where Real Madrid are going to play their home matches.
As mentioned previously, Real will be playing the remaining six matches at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium which, as you would expect, is not exactly like the Bernabeu.
Never the same
The Bernabeu is a Champions League standard stadium; it hosted the 2010 final when Inter beat Bayern Munich 2-0. Going from there to somewhere on the outskirts to play in a different setting is never the same, even for a strong team like Real Madrid.
You can imagine that even with the club officials trying to make it look like as familiar as possible there will always be differences. Right from entering into the stadium to going into the dressing rooms which undoubtedly will be smaller than what the players are used to, to going out to warm-up and eventually playing the match in an unfamiliar pitch, the entire experience will be different for the Real Madrid players.
We have seen in the past that teams have used temporary homes for some games and it is never quite the same as like playing in your regular home. When you play at your regular home, you know exactly where everything is going to be, even an advertising board, you know what run a player is going to make and, it may sound funny, but even how the grass is cut could make a big difference.
Playing in a different surrounding could also cause you to double check everything and in high intensity, high pressure games even a split second can make a big difference. For example, even a pass delayed by a second could cause the attacker to stray offside.Real Madrid have all to play for.
A few positives for Real Madrid
From Los Blancos’ point of view the fact that a few of their squad players would have previously played there helps but exactly how much is anyone’s guess. Another positive is the fact that Real will be playing teams that are not the traditional big sides at home so, under normal circumstances, their quality should shine through over the course of the ninety minutes.
And of course it will also be an altogether different experience for teams playing against Real Madrid, who know it may even feel like a pre-season friendly, given no crowd and an altogether different surrounding for a competitive La Liga game. In addition, Real Madrid team have some of the best players in the world and if they can’t cope with playing a few games away from the Bernabeu then you have to question their abilities.
In one of the closest title races in Europe this year every point is going to matter and maybe it is borne by necessity but Real Madrid have put to put everything on the line going into the home stretch. All will be forgotten if Real Madrid go on to win their 34th title but at the time of writing it feels like a bit of a disadvantage and this is something they could well have done without.Published 08 Jun 2020, 19:10 IST