The meeting of Real Madrid and Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday was a study in contrast.
The meeting of Real Madrid and Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday was a study in contrast. With 10 titles, the Spanish giants are the most successful team in the competition. The German club, on the other hand, were making their debut in the knockout round. There was also nothing similar in the form of the two contestants. Real had on Saturday ended Barcelona’s 39-match winning streak with a 2-1 victory in El Clasico, the biggest club match in the world. Wolfsburg, ninth on the Bundesliga table, had scored only a solitary goal in their three previous matches. If at all one match in the quarter-finals that could be compared to David vs Goliath, it was Wolfsburg vs Real. Of course, it was David who had the last laugh with a 2-0 win.
A Real comeback is on the cards at the Bernabeu in the second leg on Tuesday but nobody can quibble about Wolfsburg’s exalted status as putative favourites for a week. The Spanish club would be signing their own death warrant if they start to believe that the German team would roll over in Madrid. Going down without a fight isn’t in the DNA of German clubs irrespective of their stature. Wolfsburg have given themselves a fighting chance to progress to the semi-finals by not conceding an away goal in the first leg and they would be emboldened to go for the neck of Real. An early away goal for Wolfsburg will sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of Real players.
The success of clubs such as Wolfsburg in the Champions League and Leicester City in the Premier League are critical in these days of titles being won with cheque books. The El ‘Cashico’ headlines that heralded the quarter-final between Manchester City and PSG highlighted the growing influence of the rich in European football. If City or PSG go on to win the big-eared trophy this season, their fans should be grateful to fossil fuels that helped their club buy the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero. Nothing would warm the hearts of neutrals and romantics this season than glory for teams with modest resources.
Wolfsburg may already have overachieved by upsetting Real but Leicester’s title dream is well and truly alive. The Foxes can fire the imagination of countless clubs across the world by beating the likes of Arsenal, City, Chelsea, Spurs and United for the title. Club football will lose its charm if the disparity between the haves and the have-nots becomes too big.