Is destiny on Real Madrid’s side ahead of the Champions League final?


Real Madrid’s route to this year’s Champions League final has certainly not been straightforward. The Spanish giants have had something of a rollercoaster journey, and it’s taken late drama, mistakes from opponents, and a whole lot of luck for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to book their place in the showpiece fixture against Liverpool in Paris later this month.

The group stage saw Real Madrid progress comfortably as group winners, but you only needed to look at the team’s shock 2-1 defeat to Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol at the Santiago Bernabéu to know that this was a team with cracks waiting to be exposed.

Paris Saint-Germain did just that in the last 16, winning the first leg 1-0 in Paris before taking the lead at the Bernabéu as well — 2-0 up on aggregate and seemingly cruising towards the quarter-finals. Then, up stepped Karim Benzema, firing in a second-half hat-trick to turn the tie on its head and deliver another painful blow to the Parisians in Europe. The comeback had come from nowhere, and this was the moment where it felt as though Real Madrid were destined for big things in the Champions League this season.

The quarter-finals brought a match-up with Chelsea, whom Real Madrid had lost to in last season’s semi-finals. But the Spanish giants brought their A-game to Stamford Bridge, with another Benzema hat-trick ensuring they held a 3-1 lead to bring back to the return leg in Madrid.

That’s where Real Madrid’s flaws were once again revealed. Chelsea surged into the lead early on through Mason Mount, before Antonio Rüdiger’s header levelled the tie on aggregate. When Timo Werner scored Chelsea’s third on the night, it looked as if Real Madrid’s bubble had finally been popped. But that’s when Rodrygo stepped up to the mark and bagged an equaliser, forcing extra time where Benzema notched a sensational winner. Another scare survived.

To say the semi-final first-leg against Manchester City was manic would be an understatement. Real Madrid’s defensive shortcomings were ruthlessly exposed, but they emerged from the Etihad Stadium just 4-3 behind going into the second leg. It was all to play for.

In a cagier affair at the Bernabéu, Riyad Mahrez’s second-half strike looked to have sealed the deal for Pep Guardiola’s side, but Real Madrid had one last stunning comeback in the tank. Rodrygo popped up in stoppage time with two goals in the space of a minute to take the tie to extra time. With City shell-shocked, Ruben Días gave away a clumsy penalty, allowing Benzema to stroke the ball home and earn Real Madrid’s place in the final in stunning fashion.

With all this, you can’t escape the feeling that Real Madrid’s name is on the trophy this season. Liverpool may be slight favourites in the Liverpool v Real Madrid betting odds, but it seems as though Ancelotti’s side simply can’t be done away with.

Liverpool will need to find a way to play the game on their terms, to keep Benzema as quiet as possible and to win the midfield battle. If the game becomes free-flowing and high-scoring, we’ve already seen how capable Real Madrid are of getting the better of their opponents in the end.

It’s been a topsy-turvy ride for Los Blancos in Europe this season — don’t be surprised if there are still a few more twists and turns to come in Paris.


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