Introduced in 1992, the competition replaced the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, or simply European Cup, which had run since 1955, adding a group stage to the competition and allowing multiple entrants from certain countries. The pre-1992 competition was initially a straight knockout tournament open only to the champion club of each country. During the 1990s, the format was expanded, incorporating a round-robin group stage to include clubs that finished runner-up of some nations’ top level league. While most of Europe’s national leagues can still only enter their national league champion, Europe’s strongest national leagues now provide up to four teams for the competition. Real Madrid is the most successful club in the competition’s history, having won the tournament 11 times, including its first five seasons. Spanish clubs have accumulated the highest number of victories (16 wins), followed by England and Italy (12 wins apiece). The competition has been won by 22 different clubs, 12 of which have won it more than once. Since the tournament changed name and structure in 1992, no club has managed consecutive wins. However, Real Madrid, the defending champion can change history in the ongoing season.
Zinedine Zidane factor
On 4 January 2016, Real Madrid announced the dismissal of manager Rafael Benítez and on the same day Zidane was appointed the new manager of the club on a two-and-a-half-year deal. His first match as the club’s new manager took place five days later, when Real Madrid beat Deportivo de La Coruña 5–0 in a La Liga match. In his first El Clásico as a manager, held on 2 April at the Camp Nou, Zidane led his club to a 2–1 win over Barcelona to end Barça’s 39-match unbeaten run. Zidane thus became the first Real Madrid manager to win his first Clásico match since Bernd Schuster in December 2007. In the Champions League final on 28 May, Real Madrid defeated fellow Madrid club Atlético Madrid in a penalty shootout. Zidane became the seventh man to win the European Cup/UEFA Champions League as both a player and a manager, the second man (after Miguel Muñoz) to win the trophy with Real Madrid as both a player and a manager, and the first French manager to win the trophy. It was looking impossible when he took over from the previous manager but he turned around the fortunes in a short span of time. He united the squad and let players play in their favorite positions, which helped the team in winning the Champions Trophy. The ongoing Champions League season has once again witnessed the mighty power of this prestigious club and with Zidane at the helm, Real Madrid is looking strong enough to defend their title.
Depth of Squad
To win Champions League, it is a must to have a great squad and this is where Real Madrid is lucky. They have got players who can replace each other in a desired position whenever needed. Without any doubt, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the squad, who has won several games for the side. However, even if he gets injured, the team won’t be worried much. The likes of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema can easily replace him. We have seen in the last few months that the above mentioned players have won many games for the side in absence of Ronaldo. Actually, the Madrid side is capable of playing different playing XI in different competitions and can still win matches easily. Kiko Casilla, Alvaro Morata, Fabio Coentrao and James Rodriguez are never guaranteed starting position by the manager but these players can easily walk in any playing XI across the globe, so their presence demonstrate the firepower of Real Madrid.
Less challenging domestic schedule
La Liga is one of the toughest football leagues in the world. With the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, there is no letting up in the title race. However, the ongoing season, is happening as per the script for Real Madrid. They were dumped in the Copa Del Rey, meaning they were only left with the La Liga title race at the domestic front. It will certainly help them to keep all the players fit and fresh for the remaining events. The club management knows that they will only have to concentrate on La Liga and Champions League, which has somehow boosted their chance of retaining the Champions League crown in the ongoing season. Most of the teams remaining in the competition are battling it out at many fronts in their respective leagues, which has handed an advantage to Real Madrid.
The arrival of Zidane ensured that club started dealing smartly in the transfer window. Real Madrid was hardly active in the summer transfer window in 2016, meaning same players to play with in each and every competition. Zidane only brought in Alvaro Morata from Juventus to serve as a backup to his current forwards. It has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the team as the current squad have gelled together pretty well and this is showing in their performance in the Champions League. The members of the team knows what to expect from each other during the course of a game and this has helped them in delivering match winning results so far. Moreover, the new manager, has put his trust in the academy of Real Madrid and is more interested in giving a chance to the young players from the academy rather than spending hefty amount on players in the transfer window. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Pepe, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and many others have got lot of experience when it comes to Champions League and this is one of the prime benefits of keeping the same squad together.
Real Madrid established itself as a major force in both Spanish and European football during the 1950s, winning five consecutive European Cups and reaching the final seven times. In international football, the club has won a record 11 European Cup/UEFA Champions League titles, a joint record three Intercontinental Cups, two UEFA Cups, three UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups. In terms of international titles won, Real Madrid is the most successful club in the world. Real Madrid was recognized as the FIFA Club of the 20th Century on 23 December 2000, and named Best European Club of the 20th Century by the IFFHS on 11 May 2010. The club received the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit in 2004. The club is ranked first in the latest IFFHS Club World Ranking, setting a new ranking-points record. The club also leads the current UEFA club rankings. This is an exceptional history which is capable of inspiring the current team to go for one more Champions League crown. All these factors will definitely give Real Madrid an edge in their quest for the 12th Champions League crown.