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Champions League the only hope for Madrid

Madrid, Monday @PeopleSports11

A crisis is never too far away at Real Madrid. In 2014 Los Blancos ended the year with a best-ever haul of four trophies, yet six months later coach Carlo Ancelotti was sacked.

And with 2018 just underway, they risk something similar this time around. Los Blancos bettered their 2014 mark by claiming five titles in 2017, the last of those in mid-December as Zinedine Zidane’s men lifted the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

A week later, however, a 3-0 loss to Barcelona in the Clasico left a huge dent in their hopes of retaining La Liga. Madrid were provisionally 14 points adrift of their fierce rivals prior to this weekend’s fixtures, with a game in hand due to their participation in the Club World Cup. And after the Blaugrana brushed aside Levante at Camp Nou earlier on Sunday, they could ill afford another slip-up.

Zidane’s side nevertheless went behind at Balaidos as Daniel Wass exquisitely chipped Keylor Navas, and although Gareth Bale struck twice to dig the champions out of a hole, it was insufficient in the end as Maxi Gomez levelled late on with a header. So it was two more points dropped for Madrid and it could have been worse than that, too.

Earlier, Iago Aspas had seen his penalty saved by Keylor Navas, while the Spain striker also hit the post and saw an appeal for another spot kick waved away in the closing stages when it could easily have been awarded.

Defensively, Real were all over the place in the absence of captain Sergio Ramos through injury and Gomez was left completely alone in the box when he headed the second goal for Celta with eight minutes remaining. Madrid were also carved open for Celta’s opener and on several other occasions throughout the 90 minutes.

The Champions League is always an attraction for Real and Los Blancos have made the competition their own in recent times, winning the trophy in three of the past four seasons.

Now they will look to Europe for glory once again and also to save their season. But it is extremely difficult to win the Champions League, let alone three years in a row, and the competition looks stronger this year with Barca and Manchester City on fine form, not to mention the fact that Paris Saint-Germain lie in wait for Madrid in the last 16. -GOAL

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