Real Madrid have one bullet left... a cannonball. That was how Jorge Valdano described Real Madrid’s situation to our very own Tomás Roncero a few years ago when Real Madrid were running the risk of ending their centenary year empty-handed. The league was a lost cause and Madrid had lost the Copa del Rey final, on their birthday, to Depor. That cannonball Valdano was referring to was the Champions League – which Madrid went on to win in Glasgow, and after that came the European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. It was the club’s 100th year, which they managed to save from crumbling into a disaster in the way only they know how to do. They’re in a very similar position today – out of the Copa and LaLiga, but still going strong in the Champions League.
Madrid bounced back in 2002
Madrid found themselves propped up against the bar in the last chance salloon after that painful Cup defeat to Depor at the Bernabéu. But they bounced back, going on to win win the ninth European crown, the European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. Today, the big question is whether Madrid have the ammunition and the weaponry to repeat their exploits of 2002. The bullet would be Cristiano, but he’s no longer here, and the cannon would be the team, which seems a little disjointed to me. From the Madrid side who won the last three editions of the Champions League, some key figures remain - Sergio Ramos and Benzema for instance, and Modric. With those three as the foundations, Santiago Solari has the task of forming a new artillery.
Make or break
Tonight’s game at the Bernabéu is a huge one for Madrid. The 1-2 advantage gained from the first leg gives cause for optimism but doesn’t guarantee anything. Ajax are no longer that glorious team who transformed football in the first half of the 70s – but the insecurity that Madrid have shown in their most recent home games creates doubts. In particular, the team is going to miss the security which Sergio Ramos usually provides at the back. I’m not going to go into the absurd issue of the booking he provoked in the first leg, or the extra game he’ll miss through suspension. I don’t think Madrid will miss him too much against Ajax. Anyway, tonight it will be make or break for Real Madrid - they'll be hoping to get through the tie so that they can continue giving the fans something to look forward to.