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HomeChampions League48 hours, two Champions League games: Madrid's surprisingly relaxed ball season

48 hours, two Champions League games: Madrid’s surprisingly relaxed ball season

Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City are visiting at the same time, Madrid experiences two Champions League quarter-finals in just under 24 hours: The normal soccer madness and a relaxed metropolis

Ten stops on metro line 7 from the Estadio Metropolitano to the Gregorio Maranon stop, from where you can either take an uninspiring metro change or a 15-minute walk through the early evening sun to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. While in the east of the city, the Borussia Dortmund team is holding its final training session for the clash with Atletico the following day, it’s already match day in the center. All the normal madness in Spain’s capital when two Champions League quarter-finals take place within less than 24 hours.

The first Madrilenos in their creamy white shirts prefer to walk up the Paseo de la Castellana towards the north in the early hours of Tuesday evening. For a long time, nothing of the monumental home of Real can be seen on the way, until the streets are already so crowded with fans with cups of beer in one hand and ham bocadillos in the other that the only view is upwards anyway. It only really smells of soccer here, just before the temple. There, where loud firecrackers go off again and again, the air is saturated with pyrotechnics and alcohol mixes with sweat. There is little sign of a tense situation due to the threat of terrorism from a group affiliated with the Islamic State, but in the background the appropriate mechanisms for early warning, security and reaction have been activated.

New Bernabeu stadium: facade looks somewhere between a record and a broken blind

In the crowd waving flags and scarves, it is difficult to find a way until suddenly the stadium emerges from between two apartment buildings, with all its questionable new façade appearance somewhere between a record and a broken blind. From the inside, however, it still radiates grandeur and elegant power five tiers high. And the fans spoiled by success? Is the prejudice of the operetta audience true? Not at all. When the almost 80,000 spectators sing together, the sound waves alone move the ball a little closer to the opponent’s goal

The game doesn’t start well for the hosts. The final notes of the anthem have not quite died away when the Citizens are already ahead, a Bernardo Silva free-kick whizzing past the wall and into the near corner. But as is so often the case in Madrid, when Carlo Ancelotti briefly raises his eyebrow, his team come back with power, pace and finesse. Two deflected balls pass Manchester’s German keeper Stefan Ortega Moreno in less than three minutes and Real are back

A game close to perfection unfolds

A game close to perfection is unfolding between two teams whose philosophies are so different that footballing worlds collide. Creativity versus control, tempo versus tactics, sensuality versus sense – Manchester dominate the game, end up with almost two thirds of possession and repeatedly combine around the opposition penalty area as if using a compass and a triangle. Real countered robustly in the center and at times robbed City of their desire to combine, also aided by the very generous French referee Francois Letexier, against whom not only Jude Bellingham – in a manner familiar from BVB – repeatedly rubbed himself the wrong way

With the ball, Fede Valverde, Bellingham, Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior hack their way through the opposing ranks at breathtaking speed, with Vinicius Junior in particular balancing for 90 minutes on the fine line between genius rewarded with two assists and recklessness punished with many ball losses. Behind them, one passing machine controlled the traffic, then later the other, with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric now job-sharing. Three long-distance goals from Manchester, two deflected shots and a Valverde strike later, the two teams drew, leaving both not entirely satisfied.

During the day, the British fans who had made the journey to the city center got their warm-up rush and the obligatory sunburn on the Plaza Mayor. In one of the many cafés and restaurants, the Brits who had traveled from the island sat, whether they had come to Madrid from the UK or Tenerife. The fact that two such important soccer matches are taking place here within two days is hardly noticeable in the cityscape. The visiting fans disperse outside the central squares, the home fans don their shirts over their work outfits late. Dortmund fans can only be seen very occasionally on Tuesday. They only take over the venues on Wednesday, with plenty of drinks and little food on the tables

When the first match on Tuesday has already been over for around two hours and the last working people are leaving the Estadio Bernabeu, Juan Pedro is still in the middle of his twelve-hour shift between 5pm and 5am. The cab driver is torn between the joy of a busy evening and his reluctance to transport not-so-sober English soccer fans

Where's the team bus? Atletico fans celebrate the team's arrival at the Metropolitano.
Where’s the team bus? Atletico fans celebrate the team’s arrival at the Metropolitano.

It’s already much busier than a normal Tuesday evening, he reports. But is it unusually busy in the city? No, not at all. Soccer business as usual, no state of emergency in Madrid. The joy of the game, the fiesta de futbol – and optimism prevail, not only among the conspicuously large number of supporters in Real shirts with Mbappé’s name, which is probably not entirely official. He is certainly not a soccer expert and has no real interest in the sport, says Juan Pedro, the cab driver, and adds with conviction: “But I know for sure that Real will progress. “

The many Atletico fans would also sign up to this for their team, which plays in Dortmund next week, just one day before its city rivals. Wednesday evening proved that away games are definitely a disadvantage for “Atleti”. Starting with the enthusiastic reception of the team bus, which could only be vaguely recognized amidst all the smoke and fireworks. The heated atmosphere continued in the Metropolitano; few stadiums manage to create such a symbiosis between the pitch and the stands.

The next morning, all that was forgotten. In front of the garbage cans, bags filled with empty cans are waiting to be collected, as is a group that has booked a tour. Next to the fan store, a café opens its roller shutter – life in Madrid goes on almost without soccer. And Metro line 7 belongs to the commuters again

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