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Pep Guardiola backs Real Madrid to defend Champions League crown

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As Real Madrid kickstart their Champions League campaign against Celtic on Tuesday night, all eyes are on the reigning champions to see if they can defend their crown.

Naturally, there are sceptics aplenty about the Spanish side’s prospects to win the competition again, considering they remain the only side in European history to reign supreme on successive occasions. However, Pep Guardiola still tips Los Blancos to get the job done this season.

“If there is a favourite for the Champions League, it has to be Real Madrid, because they always win. But I think many teams are up there. Liverpool, Bayern, Barcelona, all the English teams, PSG”, he said (h/t Madrid Zone), ahead of his side’s upcoming clash against Sevilla.

Ultimately, it is next to impossible to disagree with the Manchester City boss, with Real Madrid winning the Champions League four out of the last nine times.

Never has a team in the history of the competition had such a stranglehold over the tournament as the side from the Spanish capital.

While some claimed that the 14-time European champions rode their luck in certain phases last term, it is undeniable that the club’s heritage in the continental competition gives them an edge over the rest of their competitors.

Staging stupendous comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City, before digging deep to walk away with a 1-0 victory in the final against Liverpool, Los Merengues proved once again that they are simply a different breed in Europe.

With an expert in how to win the competition in Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, the additions of top players such as Antonio Rudiger and Aurelien Tchouameni and the squad’s collective desire to defend their title, it would be silly not to agree with Pep Guardiola’s call.

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Real Madrid News

Key Real Madrid defender still not 100% fit ahead of Club World Cup semi-final – report

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Carlo Ancelotti heads into the FIFA Club World Cup in a pressure cooker situation. The pressure on the manager’s shoulders is immense, for his job could be on the line after Real Madrid’s poor run of form.

The injury situation does not favour the Italian tactician either. Lucas Vazquez, Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema, Eder Militao and even Thibaut Courtois are out of the semi-final against Al Ahly, leaving him very few options to play with.

According to reports from Jorge C Picon, David Alaba too is not completely fit yet. The Austrian International was given the medical all-clear and entered the squad for Real Madrid’s game against Mallorca, yet started on the bench as he was not at 100%, and that remains the case ahead of tonight’s clash.

The report, however, adds that his mere inclusion in the squad comes as a breather for Ancelotti. Alaba is highly valued by the technical staff, not only for his reading of the game on the field but also for his leadership.

The defender has already missed seven games for Los Blancos since sustaining a muscular injury against Villarreal at La Ceramica. He did indeed come off the bench for under half an hour against Mallorca, but will likely not be risked to start on Thursday. 

In his absence, Nacho Fernandez and Antonio Rudiger are expected to take centre stage in defence in Morocco. Eduardo Camavinga, meanwhile, could start as left-back again.

Alaba has played 17 games for Los Blancos this season and was one of the players with the most minutes until his injury. In his league campaign so far, he has scored one goal and provided three assists while also averaging a key pass every ninety minutes.

It remains to be seen if the Austrian recovers completely in time for the Club World Cup final should the European Champions make it. As it stands, using a cautious approach is in Real Madrid’s best interest.

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