Abu Dhabi: It has been a roller-coaster season for Real Madrid so far, but heading into the festive period they are clearly back on form and their fans can brace themselves for a grand celebration in the UAE.
Los Blancos’ Champions League campaign is very much on track and a 5-0 victory over Sevilla speaks volumes of the form they are in ahead of the Fifa Club World Cup.
Real, the reigning European and Club World Cup champions, are hot favourites when they take on hosts Al Jazira, who have so far had an unbelievable run with victories against Oceania champions Auckland City and Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan.
Coming into the tournament on the back of tremendous momentum gives Real a huge opportunity to script a memorable defence of their title.
Zinedine Zidane’s side were very effective when the rolled over Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla in recent matches.
The Jazira contest should — on paper — be easy work for a team of Real’s stature but with the hosts having a shrewd tactician in Dutchman Henk Ten Cate as manager, the visitors can’t afford to lower their guard at any moment.
Cristiano Ronaldo, too, will be on a high coming into the tournament having celebrated his fifth Ballon d’Or with a brace at the Bernabeu.
His run in the domestic season has be way below his standards but the last outing gave enough evidence that he has returned to form. He will be pumped up for this challenge as retaining the Club World Cup would be a hat-trick for him and another piece of history in the making.
The defence has also been a bit of a worry for Los Blancos all through this season but in the last two La Liga outings they have maintained a clean sheet.
It was second-string defence of Achraf Hakimi, Jesus Vallejo and Nacho Fernandez that took the field on Saturday but they too proved very effective. Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez also seems to have regained their confidence.
The French coach Zidane will have some tough calls to make with Ronaldo finding form and with Gareth Bale flying down to the UAE with Raphael Varane. Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos have both been impressive and deserve a run but with so much competition, someone will have to make way.
Bale has struggled with injury this season but, if fully fit, there is no doubt there he will walk straight into the team.
The 28-year-old Welshman also stirred up a bit of storm yesterday with media reports coming in that the he has reached an agreement with real to leave at the end of the season. This has sparked speculation that he will be on his way to Manchester United, who are keen on the winger.
Whatever happens on the Bale front, with the Club World Cup title at stake and a Clasico to follow on December 23, Real have plenty to play for before the start of the festive season.