On Thursday in Monaco, Real Madrid had their Champions League group stage fate decided by one Francesco Totti. The draw was a breathless set of drama as the future of a team’s fate in the Champions League was decided.
I’m being far more dramatic than is necessary. Real Madrid have a tough draw, but let’s be honest here, they’re still far favored to get through the group. If anything, there will be some challenges for Real that they haven’t been forced to experience in the group stage in year’s past.
Playing tougher teams in this stage of the competition will likely serve Real much better than playing cupcakes like usual. So let’s dive in, and find what challenges Real Madrid could face against Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund (sorry APOEL).
Being able to watch Real play Spurs will be a good litmus test for both sides. Spurs will be moreso interested in how they play in both games against Real, but Zinedine Zidane may get a good measuring stick of how his team plays against a side with a great midfield, and lethal striker.
Short of playing against Barcelona or Atletico Madrid, Real rarely get a chance to face a team that has a striker as talented with as powerful of a strike as Harry Kane. His ability to control the ball, spin out of pressure, and strike a clean shot is incredible. It’ll be a good test for Real’s centre-backs to matchup with Kane and keep him from turning on the ball and firing home.
On the defensive end Tottenham will provide unique challenges for Madrid’s attack. Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Sissoko, and Mousa Dembélé are excellent centre-backs and midfielders more than capable of providing a good plan to stifle Real’s attack. Now, no one ever really stops Real’s attack completely, but Spurs could present an interesting challenge for Real to break down, at least for a short time.
We saw these two teams play in the group stage last year, and it was excellent. So I’ll happily take more of these two as a fan. Last year, over the two games they played each other in the group stage, both games ended 2-2. It was a fascinating matchup between two sides that were heading in opposite directions. Real Madrid went on to win Europe, and Dortmund finished third in the Bundesliga, 18 points off the top.
Fast forward to present day, Real Madrid have only gotten stronger, and Dortmund are in the process of losing one of their key players in Ousmane Dembélé. It may mean that Christian Pulisic gets more playing time, and although not as explosive as Dembélé, creates some of the similar creativity problems that Dembélé creates.
Each of these teams is capable of dominating on the counter attack, and should Dortmund have a hope in the world, they’ll have to create issues for Real on the counter. They don’t have the ability to stifle Madrid in the midfield and despite being offensively potent, leave themselves exposed as a result.