Let’s talk about the physical embodiment of chaos that is Legia Warsaw’s home stadium, the “Legia Warsaw Municipal Stadium of Marshal Józef Piłsudski”, or its slightly less verbose name, the Polish Army Stadium.
To call it a hostile environment would be an insult to the waves of flames that frequently erupt out of its stands, the rabid fans who hoist up tifos that read, “THE CITY THAT SURVIVED ITS OWN DEATH”, or the fact that the nickname of the ultras section is called The Razorblade. The Polish Army Stadium is a nightmare in central Poland, a cesspool of barking mad fans who are unafraid of say, mixing it up with foreign police, or DAMN NEAR BURNING THE ENTIRE STADIUM TO THE GROUND.
But because when Borussia Dortmund came to town in September, some fans chanted racist things at players (among other infractions like blocking stairways and throwing objects), Real Madrid get to play in Warsaw in an empty stadium.
The environment on their home pitch is arguably Warsaw’s greatest asset in matches like this, but because of a non-zero amount of fans are despicable dinguses, the players suffer the consequences. Make no mistake, playing in any empty Polish Army Stadium greatly benefits Real Madrid.
Now, the match itself.
This feels like the type of match in which Zidane could make some rotations; Real throttled Legia in the Bernabéu two weeks ago with something of a rotated squad. Toni Kroos, Isco, Mateo Kovačić, and the BBC are very much in form, but the likes of Asensio, Lucas Vázquez, and Morata have been terrific when they’ve gotten minutes as well. Pepe is out, so that means it’s Nacho time. Which is exciting because Nacho did this not too long ago, if you haven’t seen it yet.
When it comes to the Group F table, this is a nice little opportunity for Real. Legia Warsaw have collected zero points in the Champions League, and have a league-worst -12 goal difference. If my calculations are correct, Dortmund and Real both can stamp their tickets to the Round of 16 with wins tomorrow.
As it stands, Real sit second in the group on goal difference. The final group stage match at the Bernabéu against Dortmund in December will of course be all-important, but if Madrid can retake the lead on goal difference, that’d give them some breathing room for a draw on the last match of the group stage. Premature, yes, but worth thinking about.
This is a match worth watching for no other reason than the empty stadium. Maybe we’ll be able to hear Zidane yell out commands, or if we’re so lucky, Cristiano’s victory salute after a goal. Madrid have won their last five matches by a combined score of 24-5, and this is a good chance to up that tally.
Kickoff: Wednesday, 2 November 2016 at 3:45PM EST
Legia Warsaw: Malarz; Bereszyński, Czerwiński, Rzeźniczak, Hloušek; Jodłowiec, Moulin, Guilherme, Odjidja, Kucharczyk; Radović
Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Danilo, Nacho, Varane, Coentrao, Kroos, Kovačić, Isco; Bale, Morata, Ronaldo