Real Madrid’s gene means they can’t be overlooked in the Champions League

By Alan Fehely.

Real Madrid just have that gene.

The Spanish team did a lot of work in just over a week.

Last Tuesday at the Santiago Bernabéu they came back from 3-0 down against Chelsea in the Champions League to make it 3-2 to win the tie on aggregate and many UK football predictions and even some pundits are backing them to go all out path time and earn it outright.

Madrid had won the first leg at Stamford Bridge 3-1 thanks to a hat-trick from the unstoppable Karim Benzema and the Frenchman was key again in the second leg. It was his strike in extra time, coupled with the equalizer from Rodrygo Goes, that kept Los Blancos alive.

It was a magical night in one of the most historic and mystical stadiums in Europe. The kind of match that Madrid have always defined themselves and always will. They will face Manchester City in the semi-finals of the Champions League and have fun.

The following Sunday they were in enemy territory, traveling south into Andalusia to confront Sevilla. The Sánchez-Pizjuán was noisy and the Sevillian night was sultry, with the 40,000 enthusiasts present determined to make this night uncomfortable for the behavior of the capital.

And at first, at least, that’s exactly what they did. Ivan Rakitić put Sevilla ahead with a clever, well-placed free-kick. Erik Lamela then doubled his advantage a few minutes later.

But the tide turned from the start of the second half.

Sevilla lost several key men to injury and Madrid turned the tables, with Rodrygo again the first to strike five minutes into the second half. Los Blancos dominated from there and Nacho equalized with eight minutes remaining. Then, you guessed it, Benzema was on hand to score the winner in stoppage time.

It was a key result as it essentially gave Carlo Ancelotti’s men the title.

Victory took them 15 points clear at the top of La Liga and Barcelona’s shock 1-0 loss to Cadiz at the Camp Nou the following night meant their slim hopes of challenging their arch-rivals in the Spanish capital died of a sweet death.

Then, just to add insult to injury, Madrid followed suit in another tricky game on Wednesday.

This time they traveled north to Pamplona to take on Osasuna at El Sadar. Always a tricky opponent, Osasuna are comfortably mid-table as the season enters its final stretch and entered the game for a scalp. But Madrid proved too good to give them one.

Ancelotti made several changes; Luka Modrić, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Vinícius Júnior were all rested. But the second string escalated and produced an impressive 3-1 victory in a close and fierce game in another hot and hostile atmosphere.

David Alaba opened the scoring for Madrid in the 12th minute only for Ante Budimir to equalize for Osasuna a minute later. Marco Asensio and Lucas Vázquez, however, scored a goal apiece to put the game out of sight and send Madrid 17 to the top of the table.

It’s been a week since Los Blancos showed they had the makings of champions and proved why they are on the verge of being Spain’s deserved champions. Ancelotti has done a great job creating the environment his most talented players need to thrive.

And because of that, the veteran Italian manager is on his way to becoming the first man to win the league title in England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany. A remarkable achievement for a man who has had a truly incredible life and career.

Looking back, Florentino Pérez’s decision to appoint him last summer when Zinedine Zidane left for the second time proved to be a masterstroke. He built a simple and coherent system that made the most of the talent at his disposal in Madrid.

And he taught his players to tap into that gene that makes the club unique.


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