Champions League 2010 Comment: The Galacticos Have To Unite As A Team

Goal.com's Subhankar Mondal looks at Real Madrid's chances in the wake of the draw for the last 16 stage of Europe's premier club competition.....
Just for a moment, forget that football is played on the pitch; imagine that it is played on paper. You will then perceive that no club left in the Champions League other than Barcelona has as much talent and firepower as Real Madrid. Barcelona have the best set of individual talent in the world and only their most loathed rivals can match them.

From that angle, Lyon shouldn't really be a problem. While the French giants have Lisandro Lopez, Miralem Pjanic and Aly Cissokho, Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema (wasn't he signed from Lyon?), Xabi Alonso, Gonzalo Higuain and Lassana Diarra.

The problem is that football is not played on paper; it is played on the pitch. And that is where Madrid have to show their class against a side that defeated Liverpool at Anfield in the group stage.

For all the talk of Real Madrid being a calamity this campaign, they are potentially just a couple of points behind Barcelona in the league and in Europe won a group which included Milan. Their football hasn't been consistent from the start but there has been a good mixture of steel and silk, flair and grit. And importantly, as was evident against Barcelona in 'El Clasico', they are gradually settling as a team. And even more importantly, as was exhibited by their 3-2 comeback win against Valencia, the nine-time European champions can win even without the Galacticos.

The major international football competitions are said to be won by a stroke of genius like that of Zinedine Zidane scoring that goal at Hampden Park, but behind the lobe moment of ingenuity resides the perspiration of a team. Critics say that Madrid are not a team but a collection of galactic stars, which is true. But to a limited extent. Against Barcelona los Blancos proved that although they essentally remain a collection of top class talents picked up from across the world, they are on the verge of galvanising themsleves into a team.

No, this is not to suggest that Madrid are a team yet, at least not at the level Barcelona are - and the Catalans remain the best club side in the world - but by the time the games against Lyon start they could well be. The first leg of their tie against French giants Lyon is in mid-February and there are a number of league games between now and then, which would help polish this rapidly developing fearsome Real Madrid unit.

The advantage for Madrid is that the first leg is in France. Playing away from home in the first leg would remove Madrid of pressure and enable them to go for a win. Even a 2-1 defeat wouldn't necessarily be diabolical given that they will have the advantage of the away goal. A score draw or a victory and Madrid would be through to the quarter-finals. Without playing the second leg. For the first time in six depressing years.

Which could just open the window for Europe's most successful side to conquer what they believe is rightfully theirs: the European Cup.

Subhankar Mondal, Goal.com