No team in the history of the Champions League era has been able to successfully defend their trophy in the competition. Current holders Real Madrid could be able to end that long wait this year as the Spanish giants look in great shape to come out on top in Europe again.
Real won their 11th European Cup/Champions League crown last summer when they defeated their local rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties. The two sides could not be separated after 120 minutes, therefore it took a shootout to determine a winner in Milan where their captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning spot-kick.
The Champions League winners did not need to strengthen last summer. They have not kept hold of all of their big stars – however, they remain a very talented side which includes Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema. Unlike many of their rivals in the Champions League, Real have plenty of depth to their squad. Players like Isco, Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata all provide fantastic cover if any of the regular starters pick up an injury or suspension.
Real Lead The Way In Spain
As well as remaining on track for success in Europe, Zinedine Zidane’s side are also at the top of La Liga at the time of writing. They beat Malaga 2-1 recently to retain the top spot in the standings ahead of Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico who are also chasing the leaders in a tight pack.
Real will travel to Celta Vigo next up in the Copa del Ray where they are 13/20 with sportsbet.io to win that game at the time of writing. The Madrid club were beaten at the Bernabeu 1-2 in the first-leg of that quarter-final clash, so they have some work to do if they are to remain in that competition.
Holders Handed Kind Last 16 Tie
Despite finishing second in their group before the knockout stages of the Champions League, Real have been handed a favourable draw against Napoli next month in the last 16 of the tournament. The Italian side are third in Serie A and are without Gonzalo Higuain this season as they sold the Argentine to their rivals Juventus in the summer transfer window for an estimated £75.3 million.
Real will play their first leg at the Bernabeu where they can open up a sizeable advantage in the tie ahead of the second fixture at the Stadio San Paolo two weeks later.
The threat to Real’s bid to win back-to-back Champions League titles is likely to come from Barcelona and German champions Bayern Munich. Both of those teams have tough last 16 draws though. Barcelona will need to get past PSG, while Bayern are up against Arsenal for a place in the quarter-final.
As ever in knockout competitions, the winners always need a bit of luck along the way. Real have had that with the last 16 draw and they are more than good enough to take advantage of it by going all the way and lifting the trophy in Cardiff in May to become the first back-to-back winner of the Champions League.