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Real Madrid CF
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 03/16/2012

Another week, another broad smile on the face of Madridistas as a write this blog. Victory at Betis to retain the ten-point gap at the top of La Liga, Champions League progression thanks to a 4-1 win over CSKA and a favourable draw in the next round against APOEL.

Everything's looking rosy at the Santiago Bernabeu. Heck, Jose Mourinho even looks likely to stay in Madrid beyond the end of this season, whatever happens, going on the noises coming from players and Madrid officials this week. Is everything clicking into place at just the right time?

The only thing going through my mind when watching today's draw was the potential of facing Barcelona, at whatever stage. Not only are they Madrid's biggest threat to claiming their tenth European Cup, but everything that comes with a Clasico - as we saw last season - isn't easy on the head, or the heart, whatever the outcome.

I was therefore pleased to see the only time we could come up against Pep and his boys would be in the final. The idea of four matches in such a short space of time last season - the two Champions League matches, Copa del Rey final and Liga match - was thrilling. A year on, it's nice to be able to sit back and hopefully see Los Blancos cruise to Liga victory and await a possible huge season finale against Los Cules. Nice, of course, with full respect to APOEL and their triumphant run in the Champions League this season, and the potentially tougher last-eight clash against Bayern Munich or Marseilles.

Again, with respect to the rest of the teams left in the competition, the prospect of a Champions League Clasico final is a thrilling one. Hopefully, Madrid can tie up La Liga with games to space, meaning Mourinho's men, and the Catalans, can turn their focus firmly on a possible final should they reach Munich. A one-off, end-of-season Clasico clash to decide the champions of Europe? Yes please. I can just picture Mourinho licking his lips at the prospect. The chance to forget all those other Clasico losses since his arrival, The prospect to show how far Madrid have come. The prospect to lay claim to Los Blancos now being the best team in the land, and not Barcelona.

That's still a way off, but let's look at Madrid's possible route to the Allianz Arena. First up, Cyprus and APOEL. A club that's enjoyed a fairytale run in the competition this season, knocking Lyon out on penalties at the last 16 stage. They'll go into the game as underdogs with nothing to lose and everything to gain, which could be problematic for Madrid. But Mourinho's machine-like approach should mean Madrid have few problems in progressing to the last-four. The draw couldn't have been much kinder to them, especially with teams such as Barca, Milan, Bayern and former club Chelsea still involved - it could have been worse. Xabi Alonso will miss the first leg of the match through suspension, but it looks like a good one to miss.

The draw for the semi-finals also took place and pitted either Madrid or APOEL against Bayern or Marseilles. A tougher tie, should Los Blancos progress. The German club may be five points behind Dortmund in the Bundesliga but they've excelled in the Champions League and hit seven at home in their last match against Basel. They've the added incentive of the final taking place at their home stadium, something that's sure to give them some extra bite. It should also help Madrid, too, if they meet Bayern in the last four. The experience of playing at the Allianz Arena just weeks before a potential final could work in their favour.

It's back to Liga action this weekend and the visit of Malaga to the Bernabeu. Manuel Pellegrini's big-spending side occupy the final Champions League spot going into the match and will be keen to hold on to that, but their splashing of the cash couldn't even put a dent in Madrid in the reverse fixture earlier in the season when Los Blancos ran out 4-0 winners to put the Andalusians firmly in their place.

Madrid go into the game on the back of eleven straight league wins, and although they looked fortunate to beat Betis last weekend, the result did more to confirm my belief the Liga trophy is heading to the Bernabeu, rather than dent it. Those kind of scrappy wins are the wins that help claim titles, and Los Blancos have enjoyed a few of those this year. They're the type of games Madrid may well lose without the winning machine of Mourinho on the touchline. Sure, there was a bit of luck in there with two penalty decisions that went very much for Los Blancos, but you always need a bit of luck in a season.

Mourinho himself said he felt for Betis in the post-match press conference. His future has been up in the air in recent weeks, especially following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas at his former club Chelsea. Would he stay or would he go at the end of the season? It was always my belief that, with concerns amongst the Madrid hierarchy and fanbase over Madrid's style since Jose's arrival, Mourinho would stay until the 'job was done'. That means winning not only La Liga, which he looks set to do this season, but also the Champions League. That's unless he was pushed before. But even if he does complete a remarkable double this season, the noises coming from the Bernabeu seem to indicate he'll still be in the Spanish capital for the next season at least.

Emilio Butragueno, a Madrid director, said that he expects Mourinho still to be at the Bernabeu next season when asked the question at today's Champions League draw. This follows Cristiano Ronaldo stating to reporters that "Mourinho will stay with Real Madrid next season" after Wednesday night's win over CSKA. The speculation won't stop, but the signs are there that Jose will remain at Madrid next season.

I'll finish by wishing Eric Abidal well following the news he'll undergo a liver transplant. There was a nice touch at the Bernabeu before Wednesday's Champions League match against CSKA when a picture of Abidal, along with a best wishes message, was put up on the Madrid scoreboards at either end of the stadium. I, and am sure all Madridistas, will echo those sentiments and wish the Frenchman all the best.

Hala Madrid!

Follow me on Twitter: @nicholasrigg

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Posted by ole on 03/16/2012

Nice read rigg. I forsee a chelsea madrid final. Trust me the chelsea old guard still know how to play barca. On their day they can handle barca provided refs don't decide the outcome. At that final mou will take it!

Posted by bryte on 03/16/2012

To win the CL,you always need to knock opponents like the current Millan team out......And that is why we,Barca, are not perturbed by the draw.We do wish Madridistas the best of luck in their ''cheap'' CL matches n hope to meeting you guys in the finals.....Gudluck.

Posted by Chris on 03/16/2012

Nice write up as usual. I feel uneasy when people say/insinuate that the liga title race is over, because it isn't. For those who haven't noticed, madrid still travel to pamplona, vicente calderon, camp nou and san mames. While these fixtures aren't unwinnable, madrid's performances in their last 3 liga away matches- against 'smaller' sides- have been unconvincing and with the way barca is playing, they could possibly win their last 12 games.
Real has the advantage and i hope they win, but the race- to me- seems closer than many think it is and i feel it would go down to the wire.
To the champions league, apoel shouldn't cause much trouble. Facing bayern though is a different case. Bayern at their best is only inferior to barca. I'm optimistic but i'm also realistic, the team needs to improve greatly in defence to stand a chance; real hasn't controlled games recently the way we expect them to.

Posted by Debbie Santos on 03/17/2012

Another great article. It does seem that Madrid received a good drawing an if I had any doubt those doubts were laid to rest by our local Barca fans who called us early this morning stating "we got lucky an they think it was fixed". My husband an I told them "grab your face and drop to the ground" :)

Posted by Trillarvi on 03/17/2012

Normally I would have been terrified for Madrid to face a team such as APOEL where they have absolutely nothing to lose and basically have 0.001% chance of winning as everyone would tell you, but with Mourinho at the helm there is no way he will let that happen. I think the best example was two years ago when Lyon upset Madrid in the round of 16. This could be over in the first leg to allow everyone a rest for La Liga and continue to wrap up the title. Bayern Munich will be an amazingly tough challenge especially at the Allianz where they seem unstoppable in the Champions League. If Madrid can get one away goal I call it a success. And as scintillating as an El Clasico final sounds, I think facing Milan in the final would also be an excellent secondary option, with Zlatan leading the lineup, Robinho facing his old club and Kaka the same.

Hala Madrid!

Posted by Shakil on 03/17/2012

yah favourable draw for madrid...but it can be complicated...we have to give our all at syprus and without Xabi it will be not that easy...
Mou should rest some of his men against malaga...
But we also have to maintain the ten point lead...Hala Madrid...!

Posted by paulk on 03/17/2012

Go Go Go Madrid!!we are gunning for a double this season!

Posted by DJ on 03/17/2012

Hope Barca players pick up cards and suspensions (even injuries) playing Milan and then possibly Chelsea.

Posted by Fab on 03/17/2012

Mou will stay next season no doubt about it. Wish he would just say that though instead of keeping us guessing with riddles!

Posted by kanu michael ikechukwu on 03/18/2012


Posted by Matthew Uket on 03/18/2012

All hail the galaticos! All hail Jose! All hail Ronaldo! Am absolutely so delighted about the current form of madrid. Undoubtedbly the liga crown is heading to santiago benabeu. So the camp nou faithful should forget about the liga crown cos morinho is not that kind of coach that waist advantage. For the clasico, anything can hapen, but whatever hapen, madrid will still run away with the crown. And for the champions league, if madrid can scale through bayern, then madrid will clinch the title irrespectful of who the face in the final. I console myself with the fact that Jose Mourinho have never lost a final even against baca last season in valebcia in the copa derel final. I luv madrid, I cherish their patern of play, the are real machines in the game and I wish them best of luck all through the season.

Posted by Mauma on 03/19/2012

gr8 draw the crown is ours for a 10th time this season. barca reign is over!

Posted by rose on 03/20/2012

the way madrid play football is not pleasant 2 watch at all...they play more like an epl team than a spanish side....the likes of althetic bilbao gave us some nice game 2 talk about 4 long time about the spainish tic-tack game....AND AM TALKING AS A NEUTRAL HERE!madrid can't win barca on a good day with the way they are much power,less flair & technical play that is so associated with the spainish the Era of the zidanes,figo,ronaldo & the rest madrid used 2 play a delightful football,now all i see is just power,speed,aggression & sometimes some unwarranted behaviour 4rm the likes of ramos & pepe..they remind me so much of the epl games i see week in week out...honestly,i don't enjoy it....

Posted by Brett on 03/20/2012

Nic - Obviously we've all heard the cliches about quality of opposition in these stages, etc; The truth is, I have to agree that there couldn't have been a better draw for Madrid. With all due respect to APOEL, if Madrid is focused, the agg scoreline should read something along the lines of 6 or 7 to 1. It seems an unfortunate inevitability that we let in one terrible goal per tie.

As for Bayern, they will give us plenty of opportunities. While they have a formidable attacking corp of players, the backline is dodgy (being generous) and to their credit, they won't sit back the entire match.

Xabi v. Schweini is an absolutely mouth watering match up. Can't wait to see which field general is able to better control the flow of the match.

St. Iker seems to have lost a bit of lustre and can use this matchup to regain his crown as world's best against his apparent predecessor in Neuer.

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