Real Madrid will try to leave their LaLiga woes at the door of the Luzhniki as they concentrate on the competition that has given them the most joy in recent years.
With barely any time to reflect on the what was the lost opportunity of the derby on Saturday, Real Madrid flew to Moscow yesterday and were received by a small group of fans on their arrival in the Russian capital.
Courtois, Asensio, Vinicius (who has been called up after coming on to make his debut in the final minutes against Atlético), Modric and Casemiro were amongst the players who received the biggest cheers from the fans who had congregated outside the Radisson Royal Hotel, and at the airport, some had travelled to great lengths to be at the game on Tuesday night. One of them, Aslan had come 2,000 km from Cherkesk to see his heroes play in the flesh for the first time.
The tie with Atlético came just three days after the resounding defeat to Seville – two consecutive slip ups, as well as two consecutive games without a Madrid goal (the last time that happened was in 2011 under Jose Mourinho).
But now Madrid can focus on the its refuge from LaLiga, the Champions League, the competition that it has won for the last three years in a row, and in which the best performance of the Lopetegui era has so far been recorded in the 3-0 victory over Roma.
Madrid have flown to Moscow without Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos. The Welshman was taken off at half-time against Atlético without a suspected muscle injury and remained in Madrid, where he has had a scan earlier this Monday that has ruled out any serious injury.
Ramos is not injured, but after having featured in all of Madrid’s 840 minutes of play so far this season (the only player that has done so), Lopetegui has allowed his captain to stay in Madrid to rest. Bale and Ramos remain in Madrid along with Marcelo and Isco, with these four absentees opening up a seat on the plane to Moscow for the likes of Vinicius, Nacho, Reguilón and Ceballos.
Madrid return to Champions League action this week with mixed feelings. On the one hand they are joint top of the table with Barcelona (although Barca lead on goal difference), and come into the game after taking some postives out of the second half of the derby on Saturday.
On the other hand they have taken just 14 points from a possible 21 (the last time Madrid went on to win the league with that number of points after seven games was in 1993-94).
They have slipped up in three of their last four games and have averaged two points a game in LaLiga. And on top of all this, the goal average has dropped alarmingly: in the first three games of LaLiga they scored 10 goals, or 3.3 per game. In the following four encounters they managed to score only two goals, an average of 0.5 goals per game. Benzema’s goal drought over the last four games may prompt Lopetegui to start Mariano ahead of the Frenchman for the first time in Moscow.
But on Tuesday night, Madrid will try to leave their LaLiga woes at the door of the Luzhniki as they concentrate on continuing their impressive run in the Champions League, the tournament that has offered the club and its fans the most joy in recent years.