In mid-February, the UEFA Champions League will finally return to our screens after the competition’s annual two-month hiatus. That winter break has been extended this year thanks to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But on February 14th, the wait is over, as Paris Saint-Germain host Bayern Munich in a truly mouth-watering second-round clash.
And it isn’t just that repeat of the 2020 final which gets the hairs standing on the back of your neck. The last 16 stage will also see the young guns of Borussia Dortmund face off with Graham Potter’s underperforming Chelsea. Italian Champions AC Milan make their return to the Champions League knockout stages after nine years away as they face off with 2019 finalists Tottenham Hotspur.
But the tie we are looking forward to the most is the repeat of last year’s final, as Real Madrid face off with Liverpool. Last June, a solitary Vinicius Jr. goal handed Los Blancos a 1-0 victory and an incredible 14th Champions League title. Bovada, a popular betting site, makes the reigning champions one of the favourites for glory once again this season.
Their success in Paris last summer was the fifth time they had lifted the famous ‘Big Eared’ trophy in the last decade. They ended their 12-year wait for ‘La Decima’ in 2014 when they defeated city rivals Atletico in Lisbon to lift the trophy for a tenth time. While their archrivals Barcelona would lift the crown in 2015, from 2016 onwards, Real Madrid would embark on a run unlike we had seen in the modern era.
Real Madrid’s historic three-peat of the UEFA Champions League, achieved between the 2015/16 and 2017/18 seasons, will go down in history as one of the greatest sporting runs of all time. It was a period of dominance, characterised by some of the best talents in world football, comebacks of epic proportions, and some of the most memorable matches in the competition’s history.
A Second All-Madrid Final in Three Seasons
Real Madrid started their run to three successive UEFA Champions League titles with a dramatic victory in the 2015/16 final against arch-rivals Atletico Madrid. It was a match that swung back and forth, but it was ultimately decided in favour of Real Madrid through a penalty shoot-out. The match was also notable for its heroics from star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who kept his cool and scored the winning penalty after Atletico defender Juanfran missed from 12 yards.
On their way to the final, Los Blancos had battled past some of Europe’s elite, including AS Roma, Wolfsburg, and Manchester City. In the semi-finals, they faced arch-rivals Atletico Madrid in a Madrid derby that ended in a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory.
The First Team To Retain The Trophy In The Modern Era
In the 2016/17 season, Real Madrid were once again on top of their game, as they navigated their way past the likes of Napoli and Bayern Munich. In fact, their quarter-final victory over the German giants was particularly impressive. The Bavarians were managed by ex-Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, and were expected to progress, but were taken apart by the side from the Spanish capital time and again in a counter-attacking masterclass.
In the semi-finals, they faced off against city rivals Atletico Madrid once again, and this time, the match ended in a comfortable 4-2 aggregate victory. In the final, they would meet Juventus in Cardiff. While Mario Mandžukić scored a stunning equaliser for the Italians, more Ronaldo heroics proved too much for the Turin club to take, with Los Blancos running out eventual 4-1 winners.
An Unprecedented Third Consecutive Crown
The 2017/18 season was the icing on the cake for Real Madrid as they completed a historic three-peat of UEFA Champions League trophy victories. On their way to the final, they defeated Europe’s finest, including Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich. In the final, they faced off against Liverpool – whom German manager Jürgen Klopp had restored to former glories – but a sublime brace from substitute Gareth Bale secured a 3-1 victory.
The Stars of the Show
Throughout the three-season reign, Real Madrid was blessed with some of the best talent in world football. While Cristiano Ronaldo was undoubtedly the star of the show, the likes of Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, and Toni Kroos all played crucial roles in the team’s success. Ronaldo’s goalscoring exploits were particularly impressive, as he broke a plethora of records during the timeframe, including the most goals scored in a Champions League season.
In addition to the stellar talent on the field, a huge part of Real Madrid’s success was down to the managerial prowess of Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman’s tactical nous and man-management skills were key to the team’s success, and his ability to rally the players and inspire them to perform at their best was a major factor in their historic run of three successive UEFA Champions League titles.
Real Madrid’s historic three-peat of the UEFA Champions League will be remembered for generations to come. It was a period of dominance, characterised by some of Europe’s best talent and some of the most dramatic and memorable matches in the competition’s history.