Can Madrid defy the odds in Champions League again?

Article: Can Madrid defy the odds in Champions League again?

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By Jonathan Lewis | 15th Aug 2022

Real Madrid won the Champions League for a record 14th time in the 2021/22 campaign after beating Liverpool 1-0 in the final at the Stade de France. Los Blancos were able to edge out the Reds in a tight contest, using their nous, experience and flair in the final third.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men were underdogs throughout the contest and could have been knocked out in each stage of the knockout portion of the competition, but divine intervention saved them time and again against Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea before putting in a resilient performance against Liverpool to beat out Jurgen Klopp’s men. Despite their achievement and their imperious record in the tournament, Madrid are backed at 12/1 in the Champions League odds for the 2022/23 campaign.

Their luck on the way to the final did play a huge part in their success, and the way those matches played it seemed that Madrid were a team of destiny, allowing great old hands such as Casemiro, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema one last great victory at the top of European football. Both Manchester City and Liverpool have strengthened, while Bayern Munich will not be going anywhere despite seeing Robert Lewandowski join Barcelona.

The Catalan club themselves will be out to return to their former greatness in the competition after years of underachievement. Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain will also be strong contenders for the crown. There is plenty of fierce competition and Madrid might just have used all their lives in their run to the title last season.
Benzema is an outstanding striker and scored an incredible 15 goals in 12 Champions League appearances in their run, including two hat-tricks in a row.

At the age of 34, the Frenchman will have to repeat his feat as Madrid do not have sufficient depth in and around their skipper. He was deadly in front of goal and took almost every chance that came his way. That is very difficult to replicate in a new season, especially in a term that will feature the additional demands of the World Cup. Whether he can sustain his form and fitness over two years of a heavy workload is doubtful, and Benzema is not the only one.

Modric too has to cope with the demands of one last effort at the World Cup and playing for Los Blancos. He is 36, but still produced the goods for Madrid when it mattered the most controlling the middle of the park. Modric was not completely dominant, but was clinical with his distribution at key times. Ancelotti needs to find a way to ease the burden on his midfield maestro as their ambitions in the Champions League and LaLiga could rest on the veteran once more.

Casemiro is not quite as old as Modric and Benzema, but he has played a lot of games and covers a lot more ground than his team-mates. Brazil will harbour ambitions of making a deep run at the World Cup and with that comes more time on the pitch both with games and training in the heat in Qatar. Casemiro is a key cog for the Selecao and Madrid, and keeping him fit and healthy is a paramount objective as he is arguably as irreplaceable as Benzema.

Madrid achieved their ultimate goal last season, but enjoying another run to the Champions League crown will be a tough task, even more so in this unusual campaign.

Jonathan Lewis is an MFF sports writer

Can Madrid defy the odds in Champions League again?