Ninety minutes at the Bernabéu...
'Noventa minuti in Bernabéu son molto longo'. It might cause a certain fickle strain of Madridistas to cringe, but it's a time-old energy that'll be coursing through the Santiago Bernabéu tonight as it drives its side on. It's like a cloth that's refolded but still displays its original creases. At its core, the prospect of a comeback sets the Real faithful's pulse racing. That's something that was noted by Zinedine Zidane himself, a figure intended as the cornerstone of Florentino Pérez's neomadridismo who so far hasn't stopped the regulars from wrinkling their noses at the action below as they hobnob in the presidential box (talking about offshore finance in Panama or just how dashed good the nosh is, I wonder?).
Zidane brings up 100 days as Real Madrid head coach today. Up to now he hasn't done a hell of a lot, save for installing Casemiro, a crucial player as the only one of his type in the squad, as the midfield anchor. Apart from that, he has a triple-barrelled shotgun in the shape of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano, plus whatever autonomy he dares to hold on to in the face of his president's meddling ways; ways that his predecessor, Rafa Benítez, only had it in him to denounce after he'd been cack-handedly despatched across the Channel. Zidane has made Casemiro a starter, but he's not so sure of himself when it comes to right-back. In Wolfsburg we saw Danilo given the nod, and we all know what happened next.
Presidential box and its regulars aside, Dani Carvajal and Danilo aside, the feeling is that Real Madrid ought to have enough to turn this tie on its head. There's no getting away from the fact that a 2-0 deficit has only been overturned on 17% of the occasions that it has arisen; however, it's also true that the gulf in class between Real and Wolfsburg is such that the chief rarity here is the scoreline from the opening leg. Though it certainly isn't a case, despite what Dante says with welcome good humour, of pegging the Germans' chances at 2%, either. Madrid face a tough task, a very tough task; but they can do it. Because they're a better side, they have three fantastic forwards and they have an extraordinary keeper. Now go out and show it.
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