Bernabéu, Real Madrid’s magical construction site during major European duels
Tens of thousands of supporters will be there again tonight on Madrid’s Avenida Concha Espina, next to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Scarves around their necks, flags in the air and, above all, lots and lots of passionate chanting, “Allé, allé, allé.”
All waiting there for the arrival of Real Madrid’s player bus, for the Champions League semifinal against Manchester City. “Real’s supporters are always enthusiastic about this competition,” coach Carlo Ancelotti said Monday.
Every week the bus is waited on; after all, Real Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world. But during the most important home games of the season, it is even more massive and even more Madrilenians stand. Of course at El Clásico against FC Barcelona or the derby against Atlético Madrid, but in recent years the semi-finals of the Champions League have also been a certainty.
The stadium propelled us forward with its magic.
In the previous 12 seasons, no fewer than 10 times they reached the semifinals. Five times Real won the Champions League.
And although Real Madrid is currently third in the league, fourteen points behind leaders Barcelona, supporters are not afraid of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. After all, they know all too well that the Champions League is separate from all other competitions.
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Nowhere in the world is the crowd more critical than at the Bernabéu. But on European nights like this one, the soccer temple really comes alive, even though the stadium has been a huge construction site for years. Just under sixty thousand spectators can now re-enter the stadium, around the structures under construction shielded by blue cloth.
The stadium should have been finished long ago, but after first the corona pandemic, now the war in Ukraine is causing a shortage of building materials and much higher prices than budgeted. Next season the immense project should still be completed.
Last season, Manchester City was also the opponent in the semifinals and then Guardiola’s team experienced “the magic of Bernabéu,” as the Madrilenians like to say themselves.
And that season was not the first time Real Madrid miraculously escaped. “The stadium propelled us forward with its magic,” said Ancelotti, who won all European duels on home soil with the Madrilenians last year.
Whether the current Real Madrid is better than last year, Ancelotti would not say. “That is difficult to say. What matters most is the motivation and the belief to win. Last year we hadn’t won the Champions League for three years, which is different. But we are very motivated. In any case, last Saturday’s cup final win gives energy to the team.”
Even playmaker Toni Kroos, who has already won the Champions League four times with Real, does not want to make the comparison with last year. “Nobody expected us to win then, that gave us extra motivation. Last year Manchester City was a very difficult opponent. This team with Guardiola at the helm is never easy to beat.”
The hand of Guardiola
The now 33-year-old Kroos knows Guardiola well. They worked together at Bayern Munich. “His teams always play good soccer and you see his hand. He is always looking to improve and strengthen his team. On the pitch, but also with recruiting players. Erling Haaland, of course, is of the outside category. He has already scored 51 goals, so that combination doesn’t work badly.”
Ancelotti too is obviously looking for a way to eliminate Haaland, but also wants to look beyond. “He has exceptional qualities, but if you only talk about Haaland, you forget how complete a team it is. We don’t want to stop Haaland, but the whole team. And that seems unstoppable. Still, I think we have options to win.”
Faith is always there with Real Madrid and its supporters, who will once again turn the Bernabéu into a magical place tonight.