Real Madrid travel to Marrakech to face Cruz Azul, a team that needed two hours on a rain-soaked pitch to defeat team that currently occupies the last spot in their domestic league. In a scenario that favors Real so much it might as well have been written by Carlo Ancelotti himself that the Spanish giants will have the huge upper hand in Tuesday’s semi-final match-up with last season’s CONCACAF Champions League winners.
Ancelotti’s men will be riding high after winning their 20th consecutive match against Almeria on Friday. They will also play without thinking of their La Liga lead as Barcelona dropped points against Getafe, which ensured that the reigning European champions will end 2014 as the leaders of La Liga. That will provide Real with a huge injection of confidence, but it’s not like they particularly need one after winning every match they’ve played in the last three months.
Real Madrid’s opponent will be Cruz Azul, a team that had to spend enormous amounts of energy in atrocious conditions yesterday for a full two-hour match against the Western Sydney Wanderers. On top of going through that gruelling match, they will have to play a Real side that have ample time to prepare. As mentioned earlier, it does indeed seem like the fate favors Real as Cruz Azul players are likely to be exhausted after their match with only three days rest. Their captain (and top goal scorer at the moment) Gerardo Torrado has said otherwise as he mentioned after that match: “We have trained for months for this match as you don’t get to play Real Madrid everyday. These types of matches are the matches you have to enjoy.” But will it be enough? Will training for months to face a single team be enough? In Real’s current form, many will say an unequivocal no.
Real Madrid are currently on a 20-match winning streak in all competitions with just 10 goals conceded and a whopping 75 goals scored in that run. They have especially excelled away from home this season as they currently stand as the team with the most away goals in all of Europe (in the league and in all competitions). In fact, they have managed to score three or more goals in six of their last eight away matches.
Cruz Azul have won just one away match this entire season (from 11 away matches). They have also collected just nine points out of a maximum 33 away from home in 2014/15. They sit in 13th spot in the Mexican League while their 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League defence campaign ended abruptly in the group stage. As a matter of fact, their one and only away win this season came on Saturday against a nine-man team that sits at the very bottom of the Australian League (Western Sydney Wanderers).
Some have claimed that winning all six matches in the Champions League coupled with leading La Liga and their record winning run may have sapped all the enthusiasm and urgency from Real, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Ancelotti’s men will be looking to lift their fourth title in 2014 after winning the Champions League, Copa del Rey, and UEFA Super Cup. You can be sure that being the first team in the club’s history to lift four titles in one calendar year will be motivating enough for the capital outfit. Needless to say, another trophy won cannot hurt Ancelotti and Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances at lifting the awards that they are nominated for at the Ballon d’Or gala in January.
Finally, Real will be without their midfield duo of James Rodriguez and Luka Modric who are both out because of injury. While the front and back lines are not likely to be changed as Ramos will be returning after a week and a half rest while Varane may deputize for Pepe. Real’s attack, a.k.a. the BBC (Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo) will resume business as usual which is of course bad news to whatever defense has the misfortune of playing against the trio. The three stars have racked up a total of 54 goals in all competitions this season, a tally that only the entire Bayern Munich squad in all of Europe can say they have surpassed.
So, with their brutal quarter-final match still taking its toll on their body, and with a ‘less-than-great’ away record this season, Cruz Azul will look to stop Real Madrid’s historic winning streak when teams such as Liverpool, Basel, Barcelona, Malaga, Villarreal, and Bilbao have all failed to do.
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