Before leaving the La Cartuja stadium at midnight on Saturday with the Copa del Rey trophy, the Real Madrid footballers were already showing the silhouette of Manchester City everywhere. Rodrygo, the best player in the final, said it: “We have won a very special title today, but we are already thinking about resting, because on Tuesday we have, I think, the most important game of the season.” They already have the first leg of the Champions League semifinal at the Bernabéu, scheduled this Tuesday night (9:00 p.m., Movistar), less than 72 hours after the moment the Brazilian uttered those words.
The shadow of that tie has been hanging over Carlo Ancelotti’s troops for days. While the team was preparing the last league games and the Cup final, the coaching staff has been finding moments to work on the matchup against Pep Guardiola’s team, finished off this season with Haaland. For almost two weeks they have reviewed aspects of City’s game, both through video and on the Valdebebas training camps. There they were seen again this Sunday as soon as they landed in Madrid, for a work session scheduled for 2:00 p.m. From the airport to the grass.
Not even 12 hours had passed since most of the footballers had reached their rooms the night before in Seville, where the club decided to stay after the final, rather than each going home and beginning to recover even later. . Someone ended up blown, like Fede Valverde: “I’m dead. I am very tired, but very tired, ”he said into the Ser microphones still on the grass. Right there Luka Modric crossed him, who yelled at him: “What an animal you are!”
Thibaut Courtois also understood the toll that the match had passed on to his teammates on the field: “Playing here at ten, in this heat, it’s not easy to be well on Tuesday,” he said. “But you have to try to rest well tomorrow and train well on Monday, and on Tuesday at the top.”
There were no distractions regarding a plan that Ancelotti also recalled: “Now Madrid’s demand tells you that you have to prepare another game on Tuesday.” The club cultivates a voracious culture that has already soaked up the youngsters, as Rodrygo explained: “It was the title I was missing, and we were already talking about it Vini, Camavinga, Militão, that only this one was left”, he said. “Just follow the example of those who are here, like Karim, like Luka Modric, like Toni Kroos, who have already won many times and still want to win more.”
Hence the celebrations were discreet, a long dinner at the Seville concentration hotel, described as “serene” by a club source. A private celebration with an air of the one they had with Zidane at the Valdebebas residence the night they won the 2019/20 League, which they ended up at Di Stéfano when they came out of confinement.
Nothing to do with last season: they lifted the trophy on April 30 with a victory against Espanyol at the Bernabéu, and visited La Cibeles. There they summoned Real Madrid for four days later in their stadium: they received City, whom they had to come back from 4-3 in the first leg to reach the Champions League final. At the celebration where the goddess of the white cups, after the famous photo with the cigar and the sunglasses, Ancelotti launched his call: “Go for City! Let’s go for Wednesday!”
The calendar this time, again with Guardiola’s team just around the corner, forced containment. The Italian summoned Real Madrid fans from the La Cartuja press room: “Let’s go for Tuesday. He’s already there,” he said. “We know that, like today, like many days at the Bernabéu, they are going to push us. We have a small advantage in the first leg, we played 12 against 11″.
The proximity of another Champions League final works as emotional fuel for Madrid. They intend to use the rush of the Cup as a boost, according to Courtois: “Having won it today gives you courage, perhaps positive energy, and you don’t notice fatigue so much.” His coach agreed with this invigorating effect of the victory: “We will prepare it in a good, happy and excited environment.”
They have set out to link the celebration with the fans of the 100th title in the club’s history with another joy. Another challenge, which Courtois described: “We will give everything on Tuesday, and perhaps the most beautiful thing to celebrate is to win on Tuesday and celebrate it on the field with our fans.”
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.