The Champions League returns to the Bernabéu and someone reminded me that Real Madrid’s last two European games at their stadium ended in a defeat for the host. First there was the inoffensive but concerning 0-3 defeat to CSKA Moscow in the final group stage game. Then there was the humiliating 1-4 defeat to Ajax – a key point in what turned out to be a tragic week for Santiago Solari and his project. Now Champions League football returns to the Bernabéu a fortnight after the 3-0 Matchday 1 defeat in Paris – a result which had a jolting effect on the team. Since then they’ve gone three games without conceding a goal.
Zidane restored the confidence in those who were stunned by the PSG defeat and they’ve returned the favour by taking things a little more seriously. Although while the defence is back looking solid, the team seems to have lost its spark in attack and that’s a bit of a comedown for a club like Madrid and their fans. A dynamic attack has been the cornerstone of the club’s great successes, some of them fairly recent. Madridistas want to see a team which soars, attacks and sets their pulses racing. For that to happen, the team needs to push forward as well as keeping it tight at the back.
Time for Hazard to deliver
And once they get the ball forward, it will be up to the artists to finish off the job. There’s the dependable Benzema, Bale who is back suffering twinges and Hazard… who hasn’t got into gear yet. He humbly admitted as much in yesterday’s press conference. He’s not the player we saw with Belgium and Chelsea. He has only offered a fleeting glimpse of that player so far and let’s not forget that he occupies Cristiano Ronaldo’s old position (and has his squad number). Behind him are the likes of Vinicius, Rodrygo, Isco and perhaps even James... Madrid are now keeping clean sheets at the back and it’s time to sort out the attack. We expect more – especially from Hazard, the big signing of the summer. Tonight’s game will be a test for everyone, and more so for him.