Champions League semifinals: Spotlight on Real Madrid
ABS-CBN Sports on May 01, 2017 01:56 PM
FILE - In this Tuesday, April 18, 2017 file photo, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain. The Champions League semifinals begin this week with Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid meeting for the fourth consecutive time in the European competition, while surprising French club Monaco will try to keep Italian champion Juventus from returning to the final for the second time in three seasons. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — A closer look at Real Madrid ahead of its Champions League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
SEASON SO FAR:
Madrid enters the final month of an already remarkable season still in contention for the two major titles still available — the Champions League and the Spanish league.
Zinedine Zidane's team has already won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup, and it has a chance to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions league titles since the competition's new format was created in 1992-93. It won its 11th title last season, and it also lifted the trophy in 2014.
This is Madrid's record seventh straight appearance in the competition's semifinals, and it could become the first team to have a chance to defend its title since Manchester United in 2009.
Madrid also can end its uncomfortable title drought in the Spanish league, a competition it hasn't won since 2012. Another year without the league title would give the team its biggest drought since the 1980s.
Madrid led most of the competition but now is level on points with Barcelona. The Catalan club is ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker, but Madrid has a game in hand.
Zidane will not be able to count on Gareth Bale in the Champions League semifinals because of a muscle injury.
3 PLAYERS TO WATCH:
The Portuguese forward is peaking just at the right time.
After a tough start in the Champions League, with only two goals in his first eight games, Ronaldo led the team in the quarterfinal against Bayern Munich with two goals in the first leg and three in the second.
The scoring spree allowed him to become the first player to reach 100 goals in the Champions League.
For the first time in many seasons, Ronaldo was rested in several games ahead of the final stretch, leaving him in perfect shape for the last rounds in La Liga and the decisive games in the Champions League.
The defender was one of the heroes when Madrid won the Champions League both in 2014 and 2016, scoring a goal in each final.
Decisive on set pieces, Ramos remains a crucial player for Madrid and is the team's main leader on and off the field.
He is having his best scoring season ever with the club, with 10 goals in all competitions.
The left back has been key for Madrid both on defense and offense.
With his nifty skills and great speed, Marcelo has helped keep Madrid solid at the back and effective in attack. The Brazilian has scored key goals for the club this season, and is the player with most assists in the Spanish league this year.
The 28-year-old defender is one of the most experienced players in Zidane's squad and is looking to win his third Champions League title and fourth Spanish league trophy.
He scored of one Madrid's goals in the 2014 final against Atletico.
ZINEDINE ZIDANE: The former France great has a chance to lead Madrid to its second Champions League title less than 18 months after taking over the club for his first head-coaching job.
Zidane has looked like a veteran, successfully getting the most out of his players at the most difficult moments.
He has kept the team competitive by using different formations and giving minutes to nearly all of the players on his squad.
Zidane has been perfectly timing the squad rotations at the end of the season, keeping key players such as Ronaldo, Marcelo and Karim Benzema fresh for the decisive games.
More AP Champions League coverage: http://apne.ws/2lgcPZm
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni