Why Real Madrid will win the Champions League
The Road to Kyiv has been dramatic, heartbreaking and tough. 32 teams started the race, 28 have been sent back home. However, among the great four still on parade, the defending Champions have a taller pair of shoulders when placed side by side with others.
Take a glimpse back to the beginning of this season, when no one expected Real Madrid to come this far in the Champions League. They slipped up against Tottenham and were also lagging behind in the Spanish top flight. At first, when they got drawn against Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16, it seemed the end has finally come for the Merengues.
Then came PSG. Suddenly, Real's form went up a notch. The Merengues played like a possessed beast who has been set-free to devour. Real won both legs, going through 5-2 on aggregate. One must feel sorry for the Parisians, they were the first victim of this reborn animal.
At the quarterfinals, Juventus happened to be the next on the list. Real visited Turin and came back with a 3-0 lead. Cristiano Ronaldo was phenomenal. He got a brace. Gigi Buffon was helpless. He didn't understand what was happening.
However, the return-leg wasn't a piece of cake for the Merengues. Juve watched how AS Roma achieved the impossible against Barcelona and picked up a similar spirit. The Old Lady shook the Santiago Bernabeu. Real proved to be unshakable, however. in a fascinating duel.
After Juve scored three, the game looked like it would be stretched into extra-time, perhaps then penalties. However, Real pulled a trick in the last minute to secure a place in the semifinals.
Unlike Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Juventus and Barcelona, Madrid's strength has been tested throughout this season's Champions League. They've eliminated two European juggernauts in the knockout phase. They face another next up in Bayern Munich.
To win the Champions League, a team needs luck on their side. Real Madrid's came by avoiding Barcelona in the earlier rounds. Before suffering elimination to Roma, the Catalans seemed like the only team capable of stopping Madrid.
Among the semi-finalists, no team is a match for Los Blancos. Bayern Munich you say? Last season when they met, Real won 6-3 on aggregate. The Bavarians are the bosses of the Bundesliga, but not in Europe. They struggled to edge past Sevilla in the previous round. Moreover, they've not had any daunting challenge so far. Madrid will prove too strong.
If Real defeat Bayern, they will surely be the last one standing in Kyiv. Although Liverpool are deadly on the counter-attack, they aren't experienced enough to wrestle the title away from the Merengues - a side which have won the Champions League three times in the last four years. Madrid must be considered the strongest, most in-form team still on parade.
Winning the Champions League is a do or die mission for Zinedine Zidane. With all domestic accolades out of reach, his position as manager is under threat. Only retaining the prestigious European trophy can redeem the French tactician. Failure to do so will put Zidane’s head on the chopping block.