Real Madrid cruise to Champions League final

Real Madrid cruise to Champions League final

ronaldo after 3rd goalIn September I said I fancied Real Madrid to win the Champions league and La Liga in Spain.

They’ve still got work to do, but the double is still on. Their city neighbours, Atletico, lead La Liga but could yet slip up.

Real Madrid beat the Champions League holders Bayern Munich 0-4 last night, so winning the semi-final 5-0 on aggregate.

It was a fine performance by Real Madrid. They went into the back yard of Bayern and tore them apart.

Sergio Ramos scored with two headers from set pieces. Cristiano Ronaldo also scored twice and, in so doing, within 90 minutes twice broke the record for most goals scored in a Champions League campaign. Sixteen goals for Ronaldo and we still have the final to come.

When Ronaldo is on a “going day” he is brilliant. And he’s much more of a team player these days. Like fine wine he has matured well.

Some people wondered how Ronaldo would cope when Real Madrid purchased Gareth Bale. I never had any doubt that they would work well together.

In one of their many fast pace breakaways, Bale provided Ronaldo with the pass that led to Real making it 0-3 on the night. It was the culmination of a fabulous move from their own penalty area.

 

This is the best Real Madrid team I have seen during my ten years of living in Spain.

I thought Real Madrid played in the manner Bayern Munich used to play. They did to Bayern what Bayern had done to others in the previous two years.

I didn’t think Bayern Munich could play as badly in the second leg as was the case when they played the first leg in Madrid. They very nearly did.

Bayern Munich fired blanks. They had their trousers pulled down and were shown to be impotent.

When it comes to Champions League football, I think Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben are past their best before date. Strutting their stuff at the top of the Bundesliga is one thing. But it looks to be as if they have been found out on the wider European stage.

Of course, Bayern are in a transitional phase. It’s only year one of project Pep.

pep guardiola bayern Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola will wake up to criticism of the style of play he is trying to indoctrinate. Based on the games against Real Madrid few of the players he has at Bayern are capable of doing it his way. The Bayern Munich bosses must now do what they said they would do. Back Guardiola to the hilt and give him the funds to buy the players he needs.

Or will they change their minds and decide to revert to a more German way of playing, with a German manager?

Franz Beckenbauer is one of the finest footballers I ever saw play the game. He is rightly a legend in Germany. Now acting as a pundit on TV he has been quick to say that Guardiola’s tactcis do not suit the way Germans like to play football. He has said, with justification, that having more possession of the ball means nothing if you lose games.

 

In both legs of the semi-final, Bayern had the ball much more than Real Madrid. What good did it do them?

When Pep Guardiola had Barcelona playing ‘tippy-tappy’ football they had an outlet. One of the greatest in the game, Lionel Messi. Bayern Munich have no such force up front.

It has been an eventful but very productive month for Real Madrid.

On March 23rd they were careless in losing their La Liga home game against Barcelona. The end result was 3-4 to the Catalans. How Real lost that game I shall never know. But what I do know is that they have not looked back since. They have only improved.

With good reason I and many other long term spectators of Spanish football have queried the resolve of this Real Madrid side. Their backbone has looked weak at times. Not now.

 

Carlo Ancelotti has encouraged unity. Now, in the Real Madrid dressing room, there is a ‘one for all and all for one’ mentality.

Ancelotti always wanted to be Real Madrid boss. It can be a thankless role and is often a short term job. He followed Jose Mourinho, who had clashed with influential players such as Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas.

Mourinho complained that Real Madrid players spent more time looking in the mirror than they did on the training ground. He irritated the players he did not sign which, in turn, left the players he did sign feeling detached from the rest of the squad. When Ramos and Casillas were grumbling and conspiring against Mourinho, the players he had signed felt unable to sign up to the mini revolt.

Whoever was in the right, whoever was in the wrong, the fact remains that the presence of Jose Mourinho divided the Real Madrid dressing room. Carlo Ancelotti has united the players.

Don’t take my word for it. Cristiano Ronaldo said post match: “Ancelotti deserves all the credit. He’s changed everything. He has changed the mentality of the players.”

I rate both managers highly. In both terms at Stamford Bridge Jose Mourinho has found an appreciative group of players who, almost to a man, bought in to his style of management, the way he motivates them and how he sticks by them in public. Always.

Carlo Ancelotti, a former Chelsea manager himself, is well respected in the game. He’s having the usual problems dealing with the bosses at Real Madrid. Few managers have not clashed with those who run the very conservative Real Madrid club.

But he has dealt with troubles in a more diplomatic way. He has used a more conservative tone than his predecessor. And that has been appreciated by the most influential supporters of Real Madrid.

Jose Mourinho was loved by the blue collar fans of the club. They ‘got him.’ But the majority of Real Madrid supporters found him “embarrassing” and labelled him “a silly little man.” The way he criticised referees and verbally or, in one instance, physically abused opposition coaches was frowned upon.

There was much talk in Spain last night about how Ancelotti has achieved what Mourinho could not. He’s got them to win a Champions League semi-final.

Now the two men may meet in the final, in Lisbon, on May 24th.

Could it be?

Could it be?

I hope it is a Chelsea v Real Madrid final. This time tomorrow we’ll know which team stands in the way of Real Madrid winning the honour that has eluded the club for so many years.

For Real Madrid fans and bosses winning the Spanish cup is nice. Winning La Liga is good. But the only honour that really matters to everyone at Real Madrid is being crowned Champions of Europe.

Back in September I thought this would be their season. My opinion has not altered. But the price on them to do so has. This morning 3/5, 1/2 and 4/7 are the best odds you can get and most bookies will no longer allow you to place a bet on them to win the Champions League and La Liga.

Of course, Atletico Madrid stand in the way of them winning the latter and, if they beat Chelsea tonight, will ensure an all Madrid final.

Football fans of that city would welcome such a unique final. But I wouldn’t. They know each other too well and there is a danger it would be like anything other clash between the pair in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid have had a great season, whatever happens now. But you’ll not convince me that they are an exciting team to watch.

 

If it is an all Madrid final I can see only one winner.

It’s been a long time coming. Many white handkerchiefs have been waved at several managers in the intervening years.

But even this Barcelona fan acknowledges that the time has come. The time for Real Madrid to be crowned Champions of Europe.

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