Luis Figo did not have the chance to pick the balls this morning and Karl-Heinz Riedle was not so benevolent with Real Madrid. The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals will be an extremely tough test for Los Blancos, as they will have to face Atlético de Madrid to earn a spot in the semifinals. Ancelotti's Nemesis is, once again, in our way to become champions.
Definitely, it was hard to imagine a worse output from the draw. I think that Barcelona would cause us more trouble right now strictly in terms of football, but the atmosphere created around all our derbies against Atlético de Madrid is really negative for Real Madrid. Our results against them this season (two draws and four defeats in six games) will be a tremendous weight that our players will have to throw away in order to have a chance against the colcholeros. However, there are a few reasons to be optimistic about the draw:
- The most recent precedent is the latest league derby, when Atleti beat us by four goals to nothing, but Los Blancos arrived in that game in their worst possible condition. With the absences of key players like Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Modric or James, and an out-of-shape Cristiano Ronaldo, getting anything positive from the Vicente Calderón could have been an appropriate mission for Ethan Hunt. By April 14th, Real Madrid's roster will be in a much better condition than back then.
- Atlético de Madrid is having a hard time right now. They were able to beat Bayer Leverkusen in the round of 16, but they had to get to the penalty shoot-out to do so, and they have just been overtaken by Valencia on the league table, which proves that they are not as strong as they were last season. Simeone is not rotating his players a lot and, given the physical deployment he always asks them for, this is something that he might have to regret.
- After not having been able to beat them in their last six chances, Real Madrid players must be hurt and willing to play with pride against Atlético de Madrid, just like they did in the Copa del Rey semifinal last season. The press and all soccer fans in Spain except for the madridistas will consider Atlético to be the favorites in the quarterfinals, and this may be an extra motivation for our players to bang the table and prove they are the ones who rule the Spanish capital.
- And the same goes to Ancelotti and Real Madrid's coaching staff, who have, after six games, all the necessary information to decipher Simeone's system and break it into pieces. It is quite likely that Atleti will use the same plan they have used against us lately (why change something that works so well?) and so Ancelotti will have a lot of time to find its weak spots and exploit them.