Real Madrid made a statement by defeating Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their round-of-16 clash in the Champions League, keeping alive their dream of making history. Zinedine Zidane’s men already became the first team to win back-to-back European crowns since the competition was reformed in 1992 when they triumphed over Juventus in the final in Cardiff last season.
However, Los Blancos are now aiming to make history by becoming the first team to claim three consecutive European crowns twice. When the European Cup was formed in 1955, Real were the dominant team on the continent, winning the first five tournaments. Since then, multiple sides have won the competition in back-to-back seasons. However, only the Madrid side of the 1950s, along with Ajax and Bayern Munich in the 1970s, were able to secure three triumphs on the bounce.
Zidane’s men have not been at their best this term, perhaps feeling the effects of two campaigns that went the distance, with Euro 2016 spliced between the two triumphs. PSG were one of the teams aiming to knock off the reigning champions with their attacking flair led by Neymar. However, Los Blancos proved their task will not be straightforward, securing a 3-1 victory thanks to a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and a strike from Marcelo. There’s still more than enough quality to make a surge for the crown, especially with Ronaldo yet to hit his peak this term. Therefore, Madrid are more than worth using a free bet over at Timeform, with Betfair backing them at odds of 6/1.
The result against PSG highlighted the value of Ronaldo to Madrid’s success. His goals have been the foundation of their two European titles on the bounce and their previous triumph in the 2013/14 season. Ronaldo has now scored 10 plus goals in seven consecutive Champions League campaigns – no other player has managed more than two, which includes the great Lionel Messi. Four of strikes this term have come against APOEL Nicosia in the Group Stage. However, his two efforts against PSG proved that he is always the man for the big occasion even when he’s not at his imperious best.
The Portuguese’s strike rate in LaLiga has not hit the standards of previous seasons. He has still notched 11 goals in 18 appearances, but averaged better than a strike-per-game at the peak of his powers, which has resulted in Madrid dropping off the pace of Barcelona at the top of the table. Zidane’s men are on pace to record their lowest points’ tally since the 2008/09 campaign. Therefore it could see them focus solely on the Champions League, pending the result of the return leg.
Even with their two-goal advantage they’re still vulnerable and will be facing an uphill challenge should they face off against Manchester City, Barcelona or even teams on the rise such as Liverpool and Tottenham. Spurs finished ahead of Madrid in the Group Stage and defeated 3-1 at Wembley. However, with their main man fit and firing, along with contributions from Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, their defence is far from over.