Real Madrid players training at Stamford Bridge.
At the end of January, Real Madrid's aspiration was to stretch as much as possible a season that was threatening collapse.
Buy time and escape a desert of weeks, or even months, with nothing at stake.
Just the sports and institutional abyss that returned Zinedine Zidane to the Castellana two years ago.
But that escape has been fruitful (19 games without losing) and has taken the Whites to the shore with options in the League with four games to go and the semi-finals of the Champions League against Chelsea.
Benzema and the intrepid
Madrid's escapism maneuvers
Varane, low against Chelsea
The home tournament has opened the doors to the recent laziness of Atlético (they are two points behind the rojiblancos, with a key next weekend); However, in the last month everything in Valdebebas has revolved around the great European obsession. For the return in London (9:00 p.m., Movistar Champions League), Valverde returns after a 14-day confinement by covid, Ramos got on the plane with three football spells in four months, Mendy hurried the deadlines after his injury, Marcelo was able to travel with everyone after his fleeting passage through the electoral college (he was a table substitute), Kroos has been in intensive care for three weeks, Modric has rested in this section as much as he could and the youth players have acted as water carriers in the face of fatigue and problems physical. Only the highly discarded (Carvajal, Varane and Lucas Vázquez) stayed at home.
They arrive at Stamford Bridge alive, despite the unfavorable 1-1 of the first leg, because first Courtois and then Benzema held down a Chelsea that appeared like a whirlwind at the Di Stéfano.
The first half hour
could perfectly have liquidated Madrid.
"You have to learn for the return," warned then the now injured Varane.
Thomas Tuchel's boys easily broke the pressure of the whites, ripped their center of the field and launched themselves on the goal.
The goal of the French striker appeased the Londoners and muted the game, but the memory of that start continues to weigh on when facing the return.
“We did not press well, we were late.
It's what they wanted with its speed.
And in attack you have to create more danger, "Kroos commented on Tuesday.
Zidane's men are only worth scoring to have options and statistics, so unscientific in football, draw a match with few goals. Each one with his own style, the two are two moles at the tail of the European elite in so many scored and also in received. Defensive efficiency was already known in ZZ Madrid (only then could he win the
), but this has been the great leap that Thomas Tuchel has given his team since his arrival in January. With the German coach, 16 clean sheets in 22 crashes. "We changed the system and it is working," assured defender Andreas Christensen.
The big question in the Spanish team is how the hole on the right side is going to be sewn.
In Liverpool he did it with Valverde, but now the Uruguayan returns from a two-week home isolation, and Odriozola has never been trusted by Zizou.
The participation of Sergio Ramos is another unknown.
“He is the captain of the most successful team in the last ten years and he changes a lot.
I think he will play ”, Tuchel ventured to say.
And halfway between sports, sentimentality and nostalgia, Stamford Bridge welcomes Eden Hazard back after two years stuck in a black hole in the white galaxy.
He left happy and returns trapped in melancholy.
After another season in Madrid tortured by injuries, he arrives in time for an outcome of the year that in Madrid sounded like a chimera four months ago.
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