Bring on Barca

Thursday, April 8th, 2021 00:00 |
Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior celebrates after scoring a goal during their UEFA Champions League first leg quarter-final match against Liverpool at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas in the outskirts of Madrid on Tuesday night. Photo/AFP

Madrid, Wednesday @PeopleDailyKe

Real Madrid have made a habit of saving their best for the biggest moments of the season and their 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday suggested they could be ready to do it again.

Madrid rolled back the years with a performance reminiscent of their most ruthless days under Zinedine Zidane, when they powered through the knock-out stages to win three European titles in a row, or motored to 10 consecutive victories at the end of last season to win La Liga. 

A pivotal eight days that pitched two quarter-final legs against Liverpool either side of Saturday’s Clasico against Barcelona got off to the perfect start, Vinicius Junior’s double and a Toni Kroos masterclass at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium putting Madrid in sight of another Champions League semi-final. 

Mohamed Salah’s away goal early in the second half, and Liverpool’s comeback from a more desperate situation against Barcelona in 2019, should serve as warnings against complacency. 

But an imperious and authoritative display enhances the growing sense of a Madrid team now plugged in, its eyes narrowing again just as the trophies come into view. 

“It is the character that this team has, that all the players go through difficult times but I know they have this character to turn things around,” said Zidane on Tuesday night. 

“Madrid erased Liverpool in the first half, the Reds were baffled,” wrote Madrid newspaper AS on Wednesday. 

“It was a complete performance,” said Jorge Valdano on Spanish television. 

In Spain, many wondered if Barcelona and Atletico would enjoy an advantage in the final stretch, their own early exits in the Champions League allowing them to focus fully on what has now become a neck-and-neck battle for the title. 

Barca might still feel the benefits of an extra day’s rest in the Clasico this weekend, their tight victory over Real Valladolid on Monday night possibly less demanding as well than Madrid’s demolition at Valdebebas. 

And yet it may also be that Madrid benefit from the build-up of momentum, the compression of climax fixtures ensuring their already trophy-laden squad has no time now to look away or let up.

“They are players who have won a lot but still want more and that shows you the character these players have,” said Zidane. 

The 31-year-old Kroos, with 22 club titles and a World Cup to his name, was irrepressible against Liverpool, his surgical passing from deep laying the platform for Madrid’s control and conviction. 

“Toni is incredible, a legend of the club. Whenever he goes out on the pitch he goes out with class. Nobody can play like him,” said Vinicius.  -AFP

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