I attended Saint Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge over 15 years ago. I remember the American football players talking about “Hell Week” when the new school year began. It was the most intensive week of preparation — with two practices per day before the season kicked off. As someone who loves to draw parallels, this is how I would describe our next three home games: Welcome to Hell Week! Let’s break it down:
COPA DEL REY SEMIFINALS, SECOND LEG, VS BARCELONA
(WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 27 21:00 CET)
After earning a favourable 1-1 draw in the first leg at Camp Nou, we are one win away from our 40th Copa Final. Pride will play a major role, because if successful, we would dethrone the four-time defending champions from their favourite tournament. However, our eternal rival will not go out without a fight. Both teams will feel each other out early, but once the first goal is netted, the gloves will come off. Extra time and penalties are a possibility if the 1-1 aggregate continues after regulation. Even though we come in with better physical form and good recent results, it will boil down to match-ups, coaching substitutions, and tactical execution with little margin for error. Simply put: win or go home.
LA LIGA ROUND 26, VS BARCELONA
(SATURDAY MARCH 2 20:45 CET)
Three days later, we repeat the same matchup, but this time in La Liga. Depending on how long the Wednesday Copa semifinal goes, fatigue might play a key factor. Expect unforced errors on both sides of the field which may lead to goals. Barcelona knows they have a nine-point advantage and will not want to risk bringing us, and Atlético, closer. It will be interesting to see how different our starting lineup will be from Wednesday’s Copa clash. Since only 12 Liga rounds are left after this game, this is the best opportunity to take three points from them, maintain bragging rights, and boost the belief that our 34th title is within reach.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND OF 16 SECOND LEG VS AJAX
(TUESDAY MARCH 5 21:00 CET)
79 hours later, Hell Week ends with a visit from four-time European champions Ajax. Since we won the first leg in Amsterdam (1-2), Ajax will rest their top starters on the weekend in order to be prepared to force a frenetic pace from the first whistle. Real Madrid are very experienced, especially on European soil where they compete at the highest level. As long as the team holds off the initial Dutch storm in the first half, it will only be a matter of time until Ajax wears down physically.
Three crucial games for three different competitions within seven days is rare. The best case scenario is we qualify for the Copa Final, pull within six points of Barcelona in La Liga, and qualify for the Champions League quarterfinals. The worst case scenario is we get eliminated from the Copa, fall out of contention for the Liga title, and get shockingly eliminated in the Champions League Round-of-16 for the first time since 2010. It is not a coincidence that last Tuesday evening Don Florentino met with Santiago Solari. This upcoming week matters to the Club — not only for this season but also next season.
Besides Socios and local Madridistas, Chamartín will have an international presence. Members from Peña Madridista Jordan Blancos, led by my dear friend Mohammed Kabeer, will travel over 2,200 miles to attend the second-leg against Ajax. Fasten your seat belts fellow Madridistas. We are in for the biggest roller coaster ride of the year. ¡Hala Madrid y nada más!
- Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)