Abu Dhabi: Real Madrid can get through a difficult moment and end the year on a high with a Club World Cup win in Abu Dhabi this week, said Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric.
Los Blancos come into Wednesday’s semi-final against Kashima Antlers at Zayed Sports City from 8.30pm having just suffered their heaviest home defeat in Europe 3-0 against CSKA Moscow last week, and despite winning 1-0 at home to Rayo Vallecano at the weekend, they hit a 25-year low in front of goal in the process.
With just 24 goals in 16 games it’s their worst tally at this stage of a season since 1993/94.
The loss of star man Cristiano Ronaldo up front, who joined Juventus over the summer, has hit them hard, as they sit fourth in La Liga five points behind Barcelona, but at least through to a Last 16 Champions League clash with Ajax.
Modric however, believes his side can get over their blip and end the year in style. Beating Kashima would put them into Saturday’s final at Zayed Sports City from 8.30pm against either River Plate or Al Ain.
“It’s a very important challenge for us,” he told RealMadrid.com. “What this team has, and has proven many times, is quality and character.
“Despite the difficult times and the problems we’ve encountered along the way, we always know how to overcome them. We’re prepared for what awaits us and we want to finish this year, which has been perfect, in the best possible way.”
The Croatian is right, Real won a third straight Champions League title this year and end 2018 top of the Uefa coefficient ranking, so any talk of crisis must be taken lightly.
Even for him personally, while he started the year charged with perjury for allegedly lying on oath to a Croatian court while discussing payments made during his 2008 move from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham, he ended it as a World Cup finalist and Ballon d’Or winner — the charges were dropped.
“After winning the Champions League three times in a row, we want to do the same with the Club World Cup. For Real Madrid it’s always important to win titles and we want to win this for the third time in a row.”
Winning would not only make them the first side to have done so three times in a row — a record they also took in the modern Champions League era this season — but it would also see them pull ahead of Barcelona for most Club World Cup titles with four.
“For me it’s always important to help the team in the best way possible, I’m not overly concerned with the individual side of things,” added last year’s Club World Cup player of the tournament. “The important thing is how we’re going to play as a team, take on this challenge and win the title.”
Last year’s Club World Cup player of the tournament award, achieved also in Abu Dhabi with his side having beaten Gremio, served as notice to the incredible year Modric was about to have.
Their victory here last year against the Brazilians also came after a period of some trepidation. Real were third in La Liga coming into this event last year following their worst start to a season since 2008 (this season was their worst start in 17 years). However, they won here and went on to defend the Champions League.
Things have been difficult this season with Zidane’s replacement Julen Lopetegui being sacked in late October after losing six of his total 14 games in charge across all competitions. Santiago Solari, Lopetegui’s replacement, has come in to lose just two of his 11 games, and can now win his first title. But Modric says they will need the fans on board.
“This team needs their support,” he said. “We’ve always shown that we’ll fight until the end to win the titles, we’ll give everything on the field to be successful in the future.”