Beating Barcelona at Camp Nou on Saturday was a welcome result for Real and should serve as the catalyst for a serious assault on the Champions League, starting on Wednesday,,
Back in business. Real Madrid are in buoyant mood after beating Barcelona 2-1 in the Clasico clash at Camp Nou on Saturday night, but that win will mean little unless the club can progress in the Champions League. It is time to deliver when it matters most.
Few gave Zinedine Zidane’s side a chance of winning the Clasico. Barca, after all, had not lost in almost six months in a run stretching all the way back to October 3 and 39 games in total. But Madrid got their gameplan right on Saturday to earn a morale-boosting victory.
Now they must carry the momentum from that success into the Champions League quarter-finals. The draw for the last eight was kind to Los Blancos as they avoided Atletico, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain to be paired with probably the weakest team left in the competition.
Nevertheless, Wednesday’s game in Wolfsburg will not be easy and Zidane is taking nothing for granted.
“It will be a tough match, but we are well prepared,” the Frenchman said at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “We will approach it like a final, we cannot relax: the win against Barcelona is already forgotten.”
Wise words. In football, you are only as good as your last game and Zidane will be fully aware of that from his experience as a player. A poor performance in Germany and all the positive press from the Clasico win will quickly give way to criticism and disillusion. That’s the reality – especially for a side like Madrid.
“We are in good shape and the team are focused – that is the most important thing for me,” he added. “Wolfsburg have fought hard to be here and deserve to be here.
“They may have had problems in the Bundesliga, but this is a completely different competition. We are not untouchable and Wolfsburg are able to hurt us. They have a fast attack, so we have to be alert.”
Madrid are set to stick with the same XI that won the Clasico on Saturday, although Danilo is in contention for a start at right-back and Zidane insisted on Tuesday that James and Isco remain important despite their lack of minutes lately.
Saturday’s game already looks like a point of inflection for Zidane’s side. It was the first time this season Madrid have won against a real top team and is easily the best result since the Frenchman took over from Rafa Benitez in January.
It included an impressive display by Casemiro in midfield, while Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo all produced in attack and defence – something the 43-year-old has been calling for ever since he took the job earlier this year.
But BBC have worked hard in the big games before, notably en route to La Decima in 2013-14. However, it is not enough to deliver only against sides like Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Saturday’s Clasico win was wonderful news for Madrid and showed signs of promise ahead of the Champions League quarter-finals. But on its own it meant little – especially as La Liga is almost certainly out of reach. So beating Barca was great, but it must be the start of bigger and better things for Zidane and Real – beginning at Wolfsburg on Wednesday.