Why Real Madrid suffered their darkest night in Champions League history

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The poison of blame, recrimination and scapegoating was already flowing through the veins of Madridismo — the collective noun encompassing the hefty slice of humanity that swears loyalty to that other White House, on La Castellana avenue in the Spanish capital — before they even stepped on the pitch for what would be Real Madrid’s darkest night in Champions League history.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Two defeats — at home in the past week — to archrival Barcelona, the yin to their yang, had meant Real Madrid were out of the Spanish Cup and, barring divine intervention, out of the race for the Spanish title. The Champions League was all they had left. It is the biggest prize in the club game and a competition they had won four times in the past five years. Making it five out of six seemed unthinkable, but then, so did winning three straight, and they had managed that feat the year before. In a season when there is no dominant European club, Real Madrid had reason to hope despite their struggles elsewhere.

Exhibit A in the arrogance file is captain Sergio Ramos. He picked up a yellow card in the first leg — his third of the tournament, meaning he was suspended for this game — and later boasted that he had done it intentionally. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t force [them to give me a yellow],” Ramos said, knowing he’d serve his suspension in the second leg against Ajax and therefore be available for the quarterfinal. Ramos later retracted his comments, but UEFA, the game’s governing body, wasn’t impressed and slapped him with an additional one-game suspension.7

That sort of attitude — from your longtime club captain no less — percolates throughout a side. But it’s only a small part of the picture.

The stock explanation is that Real Madrid’s early exit — the first time they’ve failed to reach the quarterfinals in nine years — is partly due to the summer departures of coach Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, who decamped to Juventus. But that’s simplistic. Ronaldo is staring down the barrel of an early Champions League exit, too, with Juve trailing Atletico Madrid by two goals. As for Zidane, the reality is that last season’s Champions League crown was a smoke-and-mirrors affair.

Real Madrid finished the 2017-18 season third in La Liga, a whopping 17 points off the pace. In the Champions League, they suffered through the knockout stage, particularly at home, at the Bernabeu, a place where the crowd are quick to turn. “They are like the crowd at the Opera. They have very high standards, and they will gladly boo if you don’t meet them … regardless of whether you win, draw or lose” said Carlo Ancelotti, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2013-14, kicking off this cycle of success.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Real Madrid were outplayed for long stretches at home by Paris Saint-Germain, they lost 3-1 to Juventus (and only advanced thanks to a last-ditch penalty) and in the semifinals against Bayern, they were the beneficiaries of major a goalkeeping blunder. In fact, they have now lost three of their last 10 home games in the Champions League and the last four straight in all competitions. You wonder if, for all the experience out there, performance anxiety played a part too.