Real Madrid: The Inevitable Kings of Europe

With yet another UEFA Champions League final appearance in their sights, Real Madrid have proven time and again that they are an immovable object in the tournament.

Real Madrid may very well be on their way back to the UEFA Champions League finals after their huge result away at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night. Despite going behind at the hour mark to Bayern Munich, they always seem to find a way to get a result, and it was Vinicius Jr. who stepped up from the penalty spot seven minutes from time to ensure the reverse fixture is played on even footing.

Underwhelming performances have been a common theme in this run for Los Blancos. In almost every round of the knockouts they’ve had huge spells in games where they seem to just barely hang on, concede the vast majority of chances, and fail to inspire their fans.

Yet somehow, to this point, they continually pull fairy dust out of thin air, and draw water from the stone. Somehow they find a way.

The first leg in Bavaria was right in line with this narrative. Bayern got off to a hot start, dominating possession and firing off six shots at Madrid keeper Andriy Lunin in the first 15 minutes, all without Manuel Neuer being tested once.

Yet seemingly, right on cue, 24 minutes in, with the first shot of the game, Vinicius Jr. made it 1-0 after a delicious ball from Toni Kroos. Of course.

Even with superstar Jude Bellingham having an uncharacteristically bad performance under the bright lights, Madrid found a way — a worrying sight for fans from Bavaria.

With the tie headed back to the Santiago Bernabéu as we started, Bayern will face an immense task. They must step into the home of Europe’s greatest-ever team and rip the seemingly pre-ordained prize from its grasp.

Tuesday night’s result was the latest in a string of games this season that has reminded those who possibly forgot, that when it comes to European ties, Los Blancos are inevitable.

This year alone, we can look back at the club’s first two knockout stage ties as evidence. Despite missing Bellingham and several key defenders against RB Leipzig in the round of 16, Madrid made quick work of their opponents, winning 1-0 away and leaving Leipzig fans in a hopeless state that’s all too familiar with anyone who’s gone up against the white wall.

An unlucky quarterfinal draw would put Madrid against reigning treble winners Manchester City, a matchup many predicted would go in favor of the Sky Blues.

City, fresh off a historic season that saw the club finally get over the UCL hump, retooled and reloaded with additions to their squad. Phil Foden performing at a level we have yet to see from him only made the club look deadlier, and it had its eyes set on going back-to-back.

The first leg provided arguably the most entertaining match of the competition thus far. It was an enthralling 3-3 draw in Madrid that saw the home side come from behind twice to pull out a result. The return leg in Manchester was similar to the first in many ways — City dominant in possession, ahead on xG, and an unholy amount of shots at goal in comparison to Madrid: 33-8 to be exact.

No prizes for guessing who ended up progressing.

The result ensured that City would not retain the UCL title, a feat that no team but Real Madrid has accomplished in the last 30-plus years.

The 2022 UCL semifinal between these two teams is folklore at this point, and probably the one result that hammers home Los Blancos’ air of inevitability more than any other. A late Karim Benzema goal in the first leg meant that Madrid’s task would be easier going forward with the deficit at 4-3. However, the second leg played out exactly to plan from Pep Guardiola’s perspective.

City controlled the game for the majority of the first half, kept Madrid out, and entered the second half feeling hopeful they could turn their opponents over. Hopefulness turned to confidence when Riyad Mahrez made it 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate with only a quarter of the game to play.

For 99% of teams in the world, trying to overturn a two-goal deficit with so little time against a Guardiola-led side would’ve been an impossible task. But as we’ve seen countless times over, Real Madrid in the UCL make the impossible, probable.

Two stoppage-time goals within 120 seconds of each other from substitute Rodrygo, and an extra-time winner from Benzema, send Madrid to the Champions League final. Their battle with Liverpool was right in line with the script. Madrid had fewer chances, less of the ball, and very little control over the game.

Nine Thibaut Courtois saves and a Vinicius Jr. winner on the hour mark were the key factors in the game that brought Los Blancos their 14th UCL crown. Like their Premier League rivals the round prior, the Reds had to face the same realization as many others. They did all they could and still somehow fell short.

We’ll have to wait a week to see if Bayern will find a way to curb the unstoppable force. The German side is widely considered the second-best team when it comes to European pedigree, and maybe is the best hope for those rooting against Madrid now that City is out. Harry Kane is at the peak of his powers and Thomas Tuchel, divisive as he may be, is a man who knows how to get to the UCL final.

Real Madrid are one of the most clutch teams in world football, and when it comes to the UEFA Champions League, their UEFA Champions League; clutch becomes inevitable. Next Wednesday, we’ll see if they maintain the status quo.

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