November 25, 2010
The amorphous mess that is the Champions League group stage is now taking shape. Most of the usual suspects are through, give or take the collywobbles being suffered by Arsenal, and, with one matchday left, we will soon be mothballing the competition until February.
Real Madrid celebrate after Cristiano Ronaldo scored in Amsterdam. © Getty Images
This week has allowed me the welcome opportunity to view a pair of the big contenders to be playing at Wembley in May. Tuesday saw me in Amsterdam to see Real Madrid mark everyone’s card with a rather impressive 4-0 despatching of Ajax. I was there as a guest of one of the competition’s sponsors, and must thank them for their hospitality, part of which included a never-ending supply of their product, a premium lager familiar around the world.
Despite the associated haze of mass consumption of that heady brew, it was clear to me that the Jose Mourinho version of Real Madrid should not be expected to go out in the second round, as their predecessors have done every season since 2003. To follow the pattern of much of the season, there was grit to match the flair, and there looked a hard, professional edge that evaded them for much of the galacticos era. Ajax did not offer much but they were swatted aside with perfunctory ease, with all four goals taken with some aplomb.