Real Madrid Champions League Preview: Strengths, Weaknesses, Star Man & Prediction


Real Madrid have won the European Cup a record 13 times | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Europe’s elite competition returns this week after a five-month wait, with the newly crowned Spanish champions attempting to overturn a 2-1 deficit at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola’s men put in a very convincing performance back in February to come away from the Bernabeu with a narrow advantage, but a lot has changed since then. Madrid came back from the lockdown in scintillating form wrestling the La Liga crown away from Barcelona and finishing the campaign with ten wins from their last 11 matches.

Manchester City have struggled on the continents biggest stage in recent years, and will be without star striker Sergio Aguero, but they’ll still be confident that the Champions League can save an otherwise disappointing season.

Sergio Ramos is Madrid's second top scorer this season
Sergio Ramos is Madrid’s second top scorer this season | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Madrid may have scored 16 goals less than Barcelona during the 2019/20 La Liga campaign, but their success was founded on the back of a resolute defence. Real even managed to concede fewer goals than their fierce neighbours Atletico Madrid – who are renowned for their defensive abilities under Diego Simeone.

Sergio Ramos marshalled his men to an impressive 19 clean sheets, letting in just 25 goals in 38 games. If the likes of Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona want to stop Madrid adding to their record-breaking collection of European titles then they’ll have to find a way past one of Europe’s meanest defences.

Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale
Hazard and Bale have both had disappointing seasons | Perez Meca/MB Media/Getty Images

While Zinedine Zidane may appear to have the luxury of having several marquee attackers to call upon, the reality is rather different. When your centre-back is your second top scorer, you know something isn’t quite working in attack.

Although Sergio Ramos is Madrid’s penalty taker and netted an impressive 11 goals, the likes of Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior should be doing far more to aid Karim Benzema up front. The former Lyon striker has shouldered the goal-scoring burden all season and luckily for his team-mates, he’s been up to the task.

The attacking trio of Hazard, Bale and Vinicius along with Rodrygo only managed eight league goals between them. If their Champions League opponents can find a way of stopping Benzema, then they’ll go a long to stopping Madrid.

Karim Benzema
Benzema is in the form of his life for Madrid | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Los Blancos have an abundance of big names, especially in the attacking areas, but the form of front-man Karim Benzema is by far the best of the lot.

The Frenchman has flourished this season bagging 26 goals and 11 assists in all competitions – finishing behind only Lionel Messi in the La Liga scoring charts. With Eden Hazard struggling to hit the ground running following his summer move from Chelsea and Gareth Bale becoming ever more isolated in the Spanish capital, Madrid have begun to rely upon Benzema and he is yet to let them down.

Isco
Madrid have a 2-1 deficit to overturn away at Manchester City | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

The Champions League is harder to predict than ever given the unusual circumstances that it is being played in. Although it wouldn’t be a surprise for Madrid to go all the way and claim their 14th European crown, it is hard to predict them getting past their next opponents.

Manchester City and Guardiola outclassed and out-thought Madrid and Zidane when the two first met all those months ago, and although Aguero will be a big miss for the Cityzens, the Argentine actually played no part in the first leg either.

Madrid’s form and fortunes have improved dramatically since then but attempting to overturn a 2-1 deficit away from home may just be too big an ask.

Prediction: Last 16 exit



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