Group D | Journey 2
He receives the theoretical ‘Cinderella’ but leader of his group, forewarned by his sounded recent skids against rivals of little European pedigree
When the draw paired Sheriff Tiraspol with Real Madrid in Group D of the Champions League, rejoicing spread through the ‘white house’. The Moldovan team, neophyte in the competition, came with the poster of an expert in candy and the logical thing was to think of a comfortable and comfortable victory of the thirteen times king of Europe against an opponent brimming with illusion but plagued by unknown players and without experience in great dates. But Chamartín’s team is warned of the danger involved in underestimating a rival who arrives at the Santiago Bernabéu devoid of complexes and with nothing to lose.
Suffice it to recall the notorious stumbling blocks that Real Madrid made against opponents of little continental pedigree in the last three seasons within their fetish competition to put the block commanded by Carlo Ancelotti on alert. In the 2018-19 season, the Whites succumbed to CSKA Moscow both at home and at home (1-0 at Luzhniki and 0-3 at the Bernabéu), the following season they signed agonizing tables with Bruges at the Colosseum from Paseo de la Castellana -Casemiro put the final 2-2 in the 85th minute of a match in which the host reached the break losing 2-0- and in the following season it was Shakhtar Donetsk who put the favorite on the ropes first assaulting Alfredo Di Stéfano (2-3) and then placing Zinedine Zidane on the brink of dismissal with his 2-0 victory at the Kiev Olympiad.
The precedents, therefore, advise Real Madrid to be cautious when receiving the Transnistria squad, a self-proclaimed pro-Russian republic located on the eastern border of Moldova with Ukraine whose independence is not recognized internationally.
Hegemonic team of the modest Moldovan Divizia Nationala, which has won in 19 of the 21 editions in which it has participated throughout its short existence, Sheriff Tiraspol entered the Champions League group stage for the first time this year after getting rid of Albania’s Teuta, Armenia’s Alashkert and Serbia’s Red Star in the previous three qualifying rounds, before kicking off the play-offs by beating Dinamo Zagreb.
Not happy with it, the team led by Ukrainian coach Yuriy Vernydub starred in another surprise by beating Shakhtar 2-0 in their debut in the top continental competition. A result that allows him to visit the Bernabéu as the leader of the group, although even on points with Real Madrid, who beat Inter at San Siro on the first day with a goal from Rodrygo on the horn.
Their superiority in the Moldovan championship is so overwhelming that Vernydub allowed himself the luxury of dispensing with several of his starters last weekend and still beat Dinamo-Auto 0-7 in the Tiraspol derby. All his forces were focused on the Bernabéu, a posh showcase for a squad propped up on an interesting hodgepodge of South American and African footballers led by Colombian Frank Castañeda and Malian Adama Traoré – nothing to do with the Spanish international from Wolverhampton- to its main stylus. «It is a well organized team, fast. We have to put maximum concentration ”, warned Ancelotti.
Nineteen months later
The temple of Chamartín will once again be moved by the music of the Champions League nineteen months after its chords sounded there for the last time before the pulse, corresponding to the first leg of the round of 16 of the 2019-20 academic year, which measured Real Madrid with the Manchester City. The whites fell that day by 1-2. That season the Merengue parish only saw its team beat Galatasaray in their own fiefdom. In the previous one a tribute was paid against Roma, but suffered against Viktoria Pilsen and was humiliated by CSKA and Ajax. In fact, the owners of the venue have barely won five of their last twelve European matches at home.
Changing that dynamic is the goal of Ancelotti, who aspires to lift his fourth ‘orejona’ as a coach, something that no one has achieved before. The Italian saw the streak of five consecutive victories of his pupils by Villarreal halted on Saturday, which started a draw that penalized the disorganized pressure of Real Madrid and left the whites unmarked for the first time this season. To get back on track, Benzema and Vinicius will be entrusted again. Next to them the return of Hazard to eleven is expected. The main unknown is still on the sides. Nacho is fixed and Miguel Gutiérrez could enter the left side.
Courtois, Nacho, Militao, Alaba, Miguel Gutiérrez, Casemiro, Modric, Lucas Vázquez, Hazard, Vinicius and Benzema.
Athanasiadis, Costanza, Arboleda, Dulanto, De Silva, Thill, Addo, Traoré, Kolovos, Castañeda and Yakhshiboev.
Lawrence Visser (Bélgica).
Movistar Champions League.