Don Santiago Bernabeu de Yeste witnessed many a European battle at the Chamartin Stadium in his time. First as a fan; then as a player, briefly as manager and in later years as the club President. But he will have seen few as challenging as the visit of city rivals this week in the quarter final second leg of the Champions League. As Atletico Madrid seek rightful revenge perhaps for the defeat in the final in Lisbon last May. Where added time deprived them of a famous victory as Lady Luck abandoned them in the 94th minute.
Now though, luck seems to be favouring them as Carlo Ancelotti defends the trophy with an ever lengthening casualty list that sees Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema as unlikely starters. Complicated even further by the enforced absence of left back Marcelo for the accumulation of yellow cards. So revenge could be sweet on Wednesday night for Atletico Madrid.
In might signal a changing of the guard at Madrid with Ancelotti is likely to be in demand given the likelihood of managerial vacancies arising at Manchester City. Or indeed Arsenal. Where the failure of Arsene Wenger at the quarterfinal stages of Champions League highlights a major shortcoming for a club of such stature and means. Operating in less financial splendour Juergen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund has won the Bundesliga and reached the Champions League fine in his seven year tenure. Working for the most part with the BVB player production line and now recognising himself it is time to move on to pastures new.
Klopp is a pragmatic manager that could fit Liverpool’s needs perhaps better and offer a fresh alternative to the tiresome clichés and corporate speak of the current incumbent - Brendan Rodgers. Who after much huffing and puffing has won a total of nothing.
The Madrid Gaffer could be followed by some of his player. Including Gareth Bale who must be tiring of the constant negative press surrounding his on field activity. Not unlike premier league players before him who were perceived failures at Madrid. The likes of which include Michael Owen, David Beckham and the injury prone Jonathan Woodgate. The only exception being Steve McManaman to a point. Albeit he spent most of second Champions League winning season on the bench and out of favour with Vicente del Bosque. Only to enjoy the moment by coming off the bench to help his club claim their eighth European title.
In the case of Bale it may no longer be possible to resist the lucrative offers coming his way from both the clubs in Manchester, and no doubt Chelsea.
The likelihood that Juergen Klopp may land at Real Madrid is by no means farfetched either as Real Madrid enjoys a long tradition of Bundesliga expertise as far back as 1974 when Paul Breitner was signed after winning the world cup for his country. Followed some years later by Monchengladbach star Uli Stielike and a host of others stars like Dane Henning Jensen, Guenter Netzer, Bernd Schuster, Budo Illgner, Christian Metzelder, Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira. Up to the modern era and the arrival of Tony Kroos.
The category of manager filled by Jupp Heynckes in 1998 when Real Madrid secured the Champions League title after a long drought.
In that context Klopp is a good fit. His reputation aided and abetted by the past three Champions League qualifiers where Borussia Dortmund have been drawn against Real and proved impressive opponents on all occasions.
In the short term Ancelotti needs to steady the ship and find a way of circumnavigating the Atletico Madrid and remain in the Barcelona slipstream should for a chance of winning La Liga arise. As long as either opportunity is still in play Ancelotti will remain focused and safe. A loss to Atletico would signal the end of his tenure. But unlike his predecessor Jose Mourinho, the Italian is unlikely to tout for a job in the post-match press conference should the inevitable bad result come his way. Ancelotti has a lot more class and more than his self-promoting predecessor.
Two skills he will need in abundance over the coming weeks.
Either way Real Madrid will now have to rely on Isco, Illaramendi, Carvajal and maybe even Khedira to bail them out. Perhaps recall Arbeloa to release Carvajal in the right side of mid field. As the last Derby between both sides in the first leg proved, this game is likely to be played at pace and devoid of much real tactics or clever formations. Just true grit as the eternal rival’s battle for a valued place in the semi-finals. But it is an occasion where Cristiano Ronaldo just might prove the difference and solve Ancelotti’s injury headaches. Although the availability of Mario Mandzukic for Atletico Madrid bodes well for the visitors and could prove troublesome for Varanne and Ramos.
Maybe the indomitable spirit of Don Santiago Bernabeu de Yeste will prove the difference in the Chamartin Stadium on Wednesday night.