Goal.com takes a peak at the Spanish heavyweights...
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
For this new season, Real Madrid has tried to achieve exactly what the team needed, after several consecutive failures in the Champions League, an experienced manager in this tournament who knows how to handle pressure. Jose Mourinho will represent, therefore, the main strength of the new Real Madrid, together with the arrival of some young stars (as Angel Di Maria, Mesut Oezil and Sergio Canales) that can improve an attacking side already blessed with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain. The weakness of Madrid is the constant change at the club that takes place year after year and even within a single season. The club are still looking for a clear identity for its team and the problem is that the club always try to accomplish this while in competition. Real Madrid never begin a season with an already consolidated scheme.
STARS & KEY PLAYERS
Real Madrid are a team constructed around stars. The vast expenditure of players brought in throughout last season guarantees there is at least a star in defence, midfield and in attack. However, the biggest name in this constellation of stars is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese is yet to make an impact with the Blancos in the Champions League, after the disappointment of last season, but he will undoubtedly become one of the main players of the competition. The newcomers Oezil and Di Maria, as well as team idols as Iker Casillas and Higuan will be the other key players of the squad.
COACH & TACTICS
President Florentino Perez has understood that the key to success in the Champions League lies primarily in having a good coach. He himself admitted that he failed with Manuel Pellegrini and in order to correct this mistake, the Blancos supremo hired the best paid coach in the world. After paying as much as the Portuguese wanted, the hope is that the ‘Special One’ can repeat the chemistry that made him world famous with Inter, winning everything last season. Tactically, Mourinho is very smart and versatile, and can prepare for each match according to the needs and difficulties raised by his rivals. Now he will be asked to take the decisive step forward in the matches that Real Madrid has failed to play in the last season of the Champions League.
Real Madrid are the most successful team in history of the Champions League, with nine European Cups to their name. However, five of them were achieved consecutively more than half a century, ago and only three of the nine titles have been achieved over the last forty years. In addition, Madrid have had a disastrous spell in the last six years in the Champions League, failing to reach even the quarter-finals. On the way the squad suffered some harsh defeats against weaker rivals like Lyon and Roma, and then the Blancos met the likes of Bayern, Liverpool, Juventus and Arsenal, and they made Madrid bend its knees. The aim, this time around, is not only overcome this barrier but to reach the finals. And win it, this time with a head coach nn the bench who knows exactly how to do so.
The temple of Real Madrid is the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Inaugurated in 1947 and with a capacity for 80,354 spectators, the stadium is one of the most spectacular in all of Europe. No wonder, it has hosted some of the biggest events in the history of football: the World Cup Final in 1982, the European Champions finals in 1964, 35 Spanish Cups, 3 European Cup finals (1957, 1969, 1980). Last year, the Santiago Bernabeu hosted the Champions League finals and showed the world its extraordinary conditions. This year, the Blancos fans expect a season of success for the team of Paseo de la Castellana avenue.
HERO OF THE FANS
The two Portuguese stars of the team, head coach Jose Mourinho and striker Cristiano Ronaldo represent the hopes of fans to make history for Real Madrid this year. The number 7 forward, with his wining attitude and outstanding talents embody the dreams of victory of Madrid fans. In addition to the two Portuguese, the fans have raised to their altars to one man, goalkeeper Iker Casillas, named The Saint, for saving the team when the going gets really tough.
The investment done by Real Madrid this season obliges the Spanish team to make a significant impact in the Champions League. Despite being unlucky in the draw and being forced to face a tough group, anything short of reaching the semi-finals will be a disaster for the team.