Two demoralizing defeats to Barcelona have left Real Madrid with just one chance to salvage its season by winning a record-extending fourth consecutive Champions League trophy.
But it must do without the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo, the star striker who fueled its title run before leaving for Juventus at the end of last season.
Madrid failed to score against Barcelona in two “clasico” matches at its Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the past week. Barcelona eliminated Madrid from the Copa del Rey semifinals with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday, and three days later left Madrid 12 points adrift in the Spanish league with a 1-0 win.
Madrid could do with rediscovering its scoring form to avoid another calamity when it hosts Dutch side Ajax in the return leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie. The visitors won the away leg in Amsterdam 2-1 thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio.
“We gave it our all (against Barcelona) but weren’t decisive enough in the box,” defender Dani Carvajal said. “On Tuesday, we need to lay it all on the line. They (Ajax) have had a good rest and we saw what they can do in the first leg. I hope the fans back us because we want to give them something to cheer.”
Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund also need to overturn defeats by Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham to advance.