One would think that a team sitting pretty at the top of the table with a quarter-final berth in the Champions League would be fairly content with their season already – but that is seldom the case for Los Blancos. With a little over a month to go until the end of the season, nothing is set in stone for the club; more so due to the gruelling fixtures that await them. Bayern Munich, Atlético Madrid, and Barcelona are all scheduled to face Real Madrid at some point in the next three weeks, and the outcome of these encounters could have a significant impact on each of the clubs involved.
The two-legged tie against Bayern will arguably be the most crucial of the lot as a poor showing will see Madrid exit the competition at the quarter-final stage for the first time since 2011 – which is likely to be seen as major failure in the eyes of the ever-demanding club faithful. Carlo Ancelotti’s return to the Bernabéu will also rile emotions for player and fans alike, with the Italian enjoying two memorable years at the helm and guiding the team to its first Champions League trophy in over a decade. Even Zinedine Zidane, who served as Ancelotti’s right-hand man throughout his tenure, will be anticipating a tense reunion with his managerial mentor.
On the domestic front, the games against Atlético and Barcelona have the potential to define Real Madrid’s fate – with negative results likely to narrow their advantage at the top of the table and create an unsettling atmosphere for the final stretch of the season. On the contrary, successfully manoeuvring this period could see Zidane and his men amass an unassailable lead and reinforce their title credentials. The home advantage means that the Galacticos will start out as favourites, but the visitors are more than capable of coming out victorious in either case.
Ultimately, it will prove to be the greatest test of Zidane’s short managerial career – and will inevitably have a major influence on his future at the club. Florentino Perez is renowned for his trigger-happy nature when it comes to the hot-seat at Real, and not even Zizou’s status as the prodigal son can save him from the axe if his fairytale goes south. The physical and mental state of the players will also be tested, and fatigue is guaranteed to creep in sooner or later under such strenuous circumstances. It’s a make-or-break situation unlike any other, holding the power to define the legacy of this Madrid side for years to come.