Eden Hazard will be keen to 'prove himself' for Real Madrid as they take on Chelsea in the Champions League, while the absence of Sergio Ramos is not hugely important - that is according to Spanish football expert Felix Martin.
With a record 13 titles to their name, success in Europe’s premier competition hasn’t exactly eluded Real Madrid.
To the naked eye, this may not be the best of Madrid sides but only a fool would write them off when it comes to this competition.
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Despite something of a rocky campaign, Zinedine Zidane’s side are still fighting on two fronts, with their La Liga title defence very much in the balance ahead of a huge showdown with Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.
As it stands, the reigning Spanish champions sit just two points behind city rivals Atletico but are also level on points with Barcelona who have played a game fewer.
A further point behind in fourth are surprise package Sevilla, and with five games remaining, it is far from clear where the title will end up this season.
Zidane and Real are aiming for back-to-back championships for the first time since 2008 and anything other than finishing the season top of the tree would be considered a disappointment.
But could the pursuit of domestic glory serve as a distraction in Europe? Eurosport’s Spanish football expert Felix Martin says Zidane will know where and how to direct his focus.
“Zidane knows that La Liga is La Liga and the Champions League is the Champions League.
He knows the level of expectation at Real Madrid: they are expected to fight for every title every season, and they will fight for La Liga and the Champions League.”
'Hazard will be motivated, Ramos absence not important'
Real are still viewed by many as the pinnacle of club football in Europe. However, as good as the current squad is, the star power is perhaps not quite that of their ‘Galactico’ days, with many of the big names now the wrong side of 30.
Luka Modric (35), Sergio Ramos (35), Toni Kroos (31), Karim Benzema (33) and Eden Hazard (30) all remain incredible talents but concerns over form, and crucially, fitness in their latter years could yet undermine their ambitions.
After a gruelling season, Modric and Kroos have both spent time on the sidelines recently, while Hazard’s injury woes have been well documented. Ramos has also been out of action for a number of weeks thanks to a combination of a calf injury and a positive Covid test.
Martin, however, believes the team will be ready and close enough to full strength for the Chelsea tie.
“He [Zidane] has - barring injury - selected pretty much the same players for every important game, so expect him to play with everything he has. Kroos, Modric and, most importantly, Hazard, are ready to come back.
Expect Hazard to be very motivated against his former team and to finally prove his worth at Madrid.
“The only important player who will be absent is Ramos. However, both Éder Militao and Nacho have shown themselves as more than able deputies in his recent absence, so that isn't really important."
'Real have problems scoring goals'
Real stunned Liverpool with an impressive performance in the first leg of the quarter final to win 3-1 and followed that up with a vital 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Clasico.
However, Zidane’s side has hardly been in scintillating form since then, drawing three of their next four matches – including the return leg at Anfield – all by a score of 0-0.
In the league, Real’s 56 goals scored is fewer than both Atleti (60) and Barca (56), with the latter an incredible 20 goals better off than their bitter rivals.
Equally troubling on the scoring front is the fact that, beyond Benzema’s 26 for the campaign, the team’s next top scorers are Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio and Casemiro, all on a paltry six strikes apiece.
Martin expects the motivation of yet another Champions League final could, and should, be the very thing that gets the players to rediscover their scoring touch.
“Real have had a lot of problems scoring goals when Benzema is not at his best," he said.
They've had a lot of 0-0 results, such as the game against Liverpool, or most recently against Getafe and Betis.
"But these doubts can evaporate quickly knowing that this is a Champions League semi-final, and every Real Madrid player will be very motivated to try to play another final.”
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