Real Madrid: story so far, key players, why they can win

Story so far
For just the second time in eight seasons Real Madrid had to settle for second in their group – and as in 2012/13, it was Dortmund who finished above them. The German team profited from late equalisers in both encounters, though Madrid were grateful for one of their own at Legia and twice against Sporting CP. The holders blew away the cobwebs in the last 16, though, overpowering an impressive Napoli side 6-2 on aggregate. Next up: Bayern.

Record this season: P8 W5 D3 L0 F22 A12

Highlights: Watch Real Madrid goals against Napoli
Highlights: Madrid complete Napoli win

Pivotal moment
There probably isn’t one key instance but rather several moments which, together, illustrate Madrid’s ability to conjure the goals that change or define games. In the round of 16 against Napoli, Karim Benzema equalised within ten minutes of the hosts falling behind at the Bernabéu. When Real’s eventual 3-1 lead looked under threat following Dries Mertens’ opener in the Naples return, the visitors summoned the perfect response.

Why this is Madrid’s year
Simply put: they have the stuff of champions. The same pervasive self-belief that got Madrid through the 2014 and 2016 finals against a redoubtable Atlético side makes it impossible to write off Zinédine Zidane’s men. If they can overcome Bayern, then the portents will be especially good considering the Munich club were defeated along the way to Madrid becoming European champions in 2014 (semi-finals), 2002 (quarters) and 2000 (semis).

Bayern v Real Madrid down the years: Six great goals
Bayern v Real Madrid down the years: Six great goals

Main attraction: Cristiano Ronaldo – To survive and prosper against the mighty Bayern, Real may well need Ronaldo to reprise the vintage scoring form of UEFA Champions League campaigns past. The recently bronze-cast forward has netted only twice this European season, though you would never bet against him.

Rising star: Casemiro – Benzema and Álvaro Morata are important support acts in attack yet Brazilian midfield anchor Casemiro has become a particularly central performer for this Madrid team. The 25-year-old even weighed in with the rubber-stamping third goal at home to Napoli.

Unsung hero: Sergio Ramos – The captain possibly doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his match-winning (or at least turning) goals. His header soon after the break in Naples removed his side from a sticky situation and followed similarly decisive scoring interventions in two recent UEFA Champions League finals as well as last year’s UEFA Super Cup.

Top Fantasy points scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (41)

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