Real Madrid’s road to the Champions League final has been characterised by late drama and continued brilliance from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid have made the Champions League their own over the past four seasons – winning it three times – but they have had to reach this weekend’s final the hard way.
Zinedine Zidane’s side face Liverpool in Kiev on Saturday knowing there have been several occasions in this season’s campaign that could easily have resulted in them being dumped out.
However, thanks to the unrelenting brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo – who is aiming to become the first player to win five Champions League titles – they are within touching distance of a third consecutive title, a feat that has not been achieved since 1976 when Bayern Munich did so.
Madrid’s road to the final has shown that scoring goals is not a problem for the Spanish side, but will their defence be able to keep Mohamed Salah and his team-mates at bay?
Real Madrid | Group stage
In a group containing Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund, there were no guarantees that Madrid would advance to the knock-out stages.
While Spurs stormed through as group winners with 16 points, a disappointing campaign from the Germans meant that Zidane’s side cruised through in second place with 13 points – a whopping 11 ahead of Dortmund. Their biggest win was against Cypriot outfit APOEL, Ronaldo and Karim Benzema helping themselves to braces in a 6-0 thumping.
Real Madrid | Last 16: Paris Saint-Germain - 5-2 agg
Failure to top the group meant they faced the sizeable threat of French giants PSG in the last 16. They made light work of them in the first leg, though, with Ronaldo scoring twice and Marcelo netting late on in a 3-1 win.
They secured their quarter-final spot with a 2-1 win in Paris, as Ronaldo’s second-half header and a deflected strike from Casemiro ensured Edinson Cavani’s goal was nothing but a consolation.
Real Madrid | Quarter-final: Juventus – 4-3 agg
Quite simply, one of the most dramatic ties in Champions League history. Two goals from Ronaldo, the second a stunning overhead kick, and a strike from Marcelo helped Real to a commanding 3-0 win in the first leg.
Any thoughts that they would stroll through the second leg at a canter were dispelled within just two minutes when Mario Mandzukic headed in for Juve.
The Croatian added a second before half-time and then Blaise Matuidi levelled the tie with half-an-hour left to play.
Extra time beckoned, but a clumsy challenge on Lucas Vazquez by Medhi Benatia saw referee Michael Oliver point to the spot, much to the frustration of Gianluigi Buffon, who received a red card for his protestations.
Ronaldo duly smashed home a nerveless spot-kick to spare the blushes of Zidane’s men.
Real Madrid | Semi-final: Bayern Munich – 4-3 agg
Marco Asensio’s second-half goal proved decisive as Madrid pickpocketed a 2-1 first-leg win.
Joshua Kimmich had handed Jupp Heynckes’ side an early lead before Marcelo and Asensio stepped up to give Madrid a slender advantage. That was wiped out just three minutes into the second leg when Kimmich netted again.
Benzema’s close-range header ensured Real’s deficit lasted only eight minutes, and 21 seconds into the second half he was presented with a gift when Sven Ulreich horribly misjudged a back-pass from Corentin Tolisso.
There was another twist as James Rodriguez, on a two-year loan spell at Bayern from Madrid, levelled the game on the night with a goal he did not celebrate, but, despite intense pressure from the away team, Zidane’s men held on to set up a final against Liverpool.