When a team’s emblem features a golden crown adorned with precious jewels fit for a king, it is safe to say that you are probably dealing with Spanish giant Real Madrid. As one of the most famed clubs in world history, only the best will do for Real and its passionate fanaticos, and the current crop of superstars are setting their sights on Europe’s biggest prize of all, the Champions League.
As the most successful team in Champions League history, Real Madrid has won the holy grail of club trophies a record nine times, including five straight successes from 1956-60. Current coach Carlo Ancellotti has arguably one of the strongest sides in all of Europe this season, and his players are hungrier than ever to win “la Decima,” the 10th in club history.
In vice-captain Sergio Ramos‘ recent interview with FIFA, the Spanish international spoke about Real’s desire to win the Merengue’s first Champions League medal since 2002. “I don’t know if it is an obsession, but we want to win it more this year than any other competition,” said Ramos. “It is complicated, but Real Madrid is obligated to fight for it (Champions League trophy) until the our last breath.”
It is obvious from Ramos’ statements that Real is focusing heavily on making to the final in Portugal’s Estadio da Luz, but are they genuine favorites to win it? Real spent huge amounts of money to bring in talent’s like mercurial Welsh winger Gareth Bale, and the young Spanish trio of Isco, Asier Illarramendi and Daniel Carvajal, and these players are expected to be the next generation capable of bringing multiple trophies back to Madrid.
Spearheaded in attack by Balon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and French international Karim Benzema, Real has the perfect blend of experience and youth to win both La Liga and the Champions League. Add in players like Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Jese, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso, and Los Blancos represent a new age of “Galacticos.”
Head coach Ancellotti is no stranger to winning the Champions League, and the gruff-sounding Italian has won it twice as a coach with AC Milan, first in 2003 and again in 2007. With a very winnable Round of 16 tie against Germany’s FC Schalke 04, it would be a real disappointment for Real not to reach the quarter’s.
One of Real’s greatest strengths as a team is their depth, with perhaps the best example of this being the goalkeeper duel between Diego Lopez and Real legend Iker Casillas. This is a team that is used to winning, as the majority of the squad play internationally for powerhouses like Brazil, Spain and Portugal, and if they are ever going to erase their current title of underachievers, they need to at least reach this years final. With an experienced coach, top players and a worldwide fan base, it could finally be Real’s year to pad their claim to being Europe’s most successful club ever.