Ever since the debacle of the later stages of the Floretino Perez era in the early half of this decade, there has been a myth surrounding Real Madrid’s performances in big matches in Europe – that they are not capable of beating sides like Milan,Juventus, Barcelona, the English giants or worse, even Roma or Lyon. The myth is slowly turning out to be a fact, much to the dismay of the Madridistas. Every year, they build up hope; every year, they dream about winning that ever elusive “La Decima”; every year, a coach tries his methods to bring home their “holy grail”. But Real Madrid fails to beat these big teams; for the last six successive years, they have been eliminated in the round of 16 against one of those teams. So, is Real Madrid really ready to face a team like Milan, who always show up whenever they play in Europe? This may not be a knockout match or for that matter, not even a decisive one, since it won’t conclude the group, but it sure helps build confidence for the Los Merengues if they manage to beat their European rivals.
Same old excuses
For the last six years, the ‘Men In White’ have given the same old excuses – “the team isn’t ready yet”, “we are still building”, “the ball just didn’t want to go in”, “luck robbed us”, etc. But it really hasn’t been the case, as they haven’t been good enough to win against the big teams. Be it against Arsenal in 2006 when Theirry Henry plummeted the Madrid defence single handedly at the Bernabeu, or when Van Bommel crashed Madridista hearts by scoring a last gasp goal which played to Bayern’s favor hugely, or when Roma shocked the entire world by beating the Spanish giants, or when a spirited Lyon sent Madrid packing last year, or when Liverpool taught Real Madrid how to play football, there have always been excuses – and silly ones.
But there is no excuse to find excuses for Real Madrid this season, as they definitely have the team and a world class coach to beat the big guns. Jose Mourinho is a man who has done it before, and Real Madrid can definitely expect him to take them to the next level to beat them.
“The Special Factor”
Speaking of Jose Mourinho, he has been sensational in Europe for the last eight seasons. First, he guided Porto to an unforgettable UCL triumph at the cost of teams such as Manchester United and Lyon. He followed that with brilliant runs for Chelsea, taking them to two semi finals in three years; and of course, he won the hearts of Interistas by delivering them the Champions League after more than four decades. Jose Mourinho is someone who has that winning mentality embedded into his DNA. He knows how to win big matches, that too on the grandest of stages. He has beaten some of the most celebrated teams like the ones of last year’s Barcelona and Chelsea, the Manchester United of the 2003-2004 seasons, the Ronaldinho-inspired Barcelona in the mid 2000s and many more. The Madridistas can relax a little now, as “The Special One” knows how to take down their toughest opponents.
A Haunting Jinx
There’s a jinx that’s been haunting Real Madrid recently. Whenever they win big in the league, the following UCL game ends up a disaster; this has happened for the last three to four years. When they won at the Vicente Calderon against Atletico Madrid, they lost to Juventus. When they won 7-0 against Valladoid, they lost to Roma; and when they won 6-1 against Real Betis, they were thrashed by Liverpool. Last year was no different – they won big against Tenerife, but ended crashing out against Lyon. This year, they have beaten Malaga 4-1 prior to the game against Milan. It’d be interesting to see if they can break that jinx and beat Milan on Tuesday.
But, there’s the confidence factor
Unlike last year when they started off in blazing fashion, Real Madrid has started slowly, but has started to grow in confidence with every victory. But most importantly, there is no dependence on Ronaldo. The Galacticos are playing more as a team, even with Ronaldo in the side. Ozil, Higuain, Di Maria and Xabi Alonso are players who are as important as Cristiano Ronaldo, if not more. In the first few games, Ronaldo and Higuain were in terrible form and it was Ozil and Di Maria who rescued them against teams like Auxerre, Real Sociedad, Osasuna, etc. Therefore, if Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain struggle to find their feet, Ozil and Di Maria can step in and run the show for Mourinho.
In other words, Real Madrid are playing more as a team, which in turn is helping Ronaldo to take pressure off himself. Real Madrid gave two commanding performances against Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga in their last two league matches by beating their opponents 6-1 and 1-4 respectively, which would’ve done a world of good to their confidence. Against Milan, if they play their natural dynamic attacking football balanced with a well-organized defensive approach, they may have what it takes to beat Milan.
Milan is a team with plenty of experience. Ronaldinho, Seedorf, Pirlo, Gattuso, Nesta, and Zambrotta are legends of the game who have been in and played these kinds of games countless times. Robinho played at the Bernabeu for three years, and it’s familiar territory for him. Ibrahimovic can cause havoc to any defense on his day., while “the duck” Pato has been in great form for Milan this season. If the very young Real Madrid side has to beat AC Milan tomorrow, they have to be at their absolute best in both defense and in attack, without allowing Milan to control the game. If they don’t do so, déjà vu will surround the Bernabeu , which will not be a good sign for a very ambitious team.
If Real Madrid manages to beat Milan and take revenge over last year’s loss, they may well have taken a huge step forward on their way to becoming the team they were feared in the early half of this decade. Is Real Madrid ready to take on a side like AC Milan? There’s only one way to find that out – watching the grand match tomorrow. We leave this article with the highlights of last year’s fixture.