Real Madrid will face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Round of 16 of the Champions League in February, and Los Blancos are a team nobody else wants to face.
Zinedine Zidane has made the Champions League his signature competition. In his first stint as Real Madrid’s manager, Zidane won the competition in three out of his three attempts, establishing himself as a legendary manager in the competition.
While Real Madrid have been taking some lumps in the 2019-2020 Champions League thus far, they are still a team nobody else wants to face.
Don’t believe me? Listen to Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri, who downplayed concentrating on Round of 16 opponents Lyon, singling out Madrid as the team he was relieved to avoid.
Sarri said, via ForzaItalianFootball.com’s Conor Clancy:
“Our fear was Real Madrid. The rest were fine.”
Even the fearless disciplinarian Maurizio Sarri didn’t want to face the team Cristiano Ronaldo won three Champions League titles with.
Real Madrid haven’t hit their “next gear” under Zidane yet, but by the time the Champions League knockout stages start up, they could be the scariest team in the entire competition.
They have arguably the world’s best center back duo, an insane midfield that includes the likes of Casemiro and Toni Kroos, the world’s best all-around striker in Karim Benzema, the stellar Eden Hazard, talented fullbacks, a world-class Thibaut Courtois in goal, and young talents like Rodrygo and Fede Valverde set to take even bigger steps forward in 2020.
Zidane will have Los Blancos clicking in no time, and they are already a top-notch team in Deceber 2019. So it’s no wonder why Sarri didn’t want to face Real in the opening round. Facing Zidane is always a tricky proposition, but especially with Real’s talent on defense and an attack buoyed by a health Hazard.
Sarri can’t be the only top manager who is worried about Madrid, and it says something that even Serie A’s powerhouse wants nothing to do with Los Merengues. The 2019-2020 campaign is starting to look like a very fruitful one for Madridistas.