Real Madrid in Champions League: group, games, schedule, dates and opponents, prediction
Zinedine Zidane's side have gone out of Europe at the last 16 stage in each of the last two seasons. Can the Frenchman guide an ageing squad to glory?
Much has been made of Zinedine Zidane’s “flor” in the Champions League – the suggestion by those of a non-Real Madrid persuasion that the Frenchman has enjoyed more than his fair share of luck in Europe’s elite club competition since he took over the reins at the Bernabéu in January 2016. Certainly, against Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals that year, with Madrid needing three after a 2-0 defeat in Germany, fortune smiled on Zidane when Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick found a ball-shaped hole in the Wolfsburg wall on 77 minutes. Real went on to win the tournament that season and the two that followed.
Causality notwithstanding, Ronaldo rescue missions would become a familiar theme running through the highlight reel of Real’s Madrid’s dominance. The Portuguese top-scored in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18, bagging 43 times overall as Zidane landed a treble of Champions League victories to cement his legend. Ronaldo's departure coincided with Madrid looking on as Liverpool won in their back yard and Bayern claimed the 2019-20 title in Lisbon. Zidane has not been past the last 16 without his talisman – exactly the stage of the competition that prompted Florentino Pérez to pair Ronaldo with José Mourinho at the Bernabéu after six years of leaving the party before the fun really started.
Can Zidane, with an ageing starting XI and little in reserve compared to years gone by, rekindle the flor of old? Madrid have never failed to get out of the group stage in the Champions League and avoided the worst of a very sticky draw for this season’s tournament. They will though face Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan and travel to Germany, where they have traditionally struggled, to play a young and unpredictable Borussia Mönchengladbach side.
Real Madrid, Inter, Gladbach and Shakhtar in Group B
Madrid’s group stage record makes Zidane’s side the favourites to progress from Group B as winners but Inter Milan will provide a stern test both home and away. Gladbach have found stability under Marco Rose, who played under Jürgen Klopp at Mainz, finishing the 2019-20 Bundesliga season in fourth. The German side know their way around the Champions League group stage but will in all likelihood have to settle for a scrap with Shakhtar for the Europa League spot.
The perennial Ukrainian champions will not be looking to make up the numbers either and have a raft of Brazilian talent in addition to a good chunk of the Ukraine national squad, all marshalled by the under-the-radar but wily tactician Luís Castro. Shakhtar are capable of upsetting the odds, reaching the quarterfinals in 2010-11 and finishing in second place between Juventus and Chelsea in Group E in 2012-13 and repeating the trick in a group containing Manchester City, Napoli and Feyenoord three seasons ago.
Real Madrid Champions League Group B fixtures
21 October: Real Madrid vs Shakhtar Donetsk (Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano)
27 October: Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Real Madrid (Borussia-Park)
3 November: Real Madrid vs Inter Milan (Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano)
25 November: Inter Milan vs Real Madrid (San Siro)
1 December: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid (NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium)
9 December: Real Madrid vs Borussia Mönchengladbach (Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano)
Real Madrid should be able to ensure a top placed finish by taking at least four points off Inter Milan but a surprise cannot be ruled out with Zidane's side hardly scoring for fun and kicking off their campaign against Shakhtar on the heels of a 1-0 defeat to newly promoted Cádiz - the Andalusians' first away victory over Madrid in their 110-year history. The Serie A side are a shoo-in for progession in second but Shakhtar have a bit of form in the tearing up the form book stakes. However, the Ukrainians and Gladbach will probably duke it out for the Europa League berth.
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