This weeks Darkhorse Chronicles features an unusual name. This club is almost never a Darkhorse in anything, but that is where we are right now. Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid in his blockbuster trade this summer, discussion has been rampant about their chances.
Although they have fallen out of the top of La Liga, the gap between them and their archrival, FC Barcelona, is only 4 points. Though — that is only part of the discussion (and not why they are being mentioned), according to FiveThirtyEight, they are the fourth most likely to win the Champions League having in fact the exact same chance of winning as their rivals.
The chances that Real Madrid do not advance having 9 points on 4 matches is almost nothing with a 97% chance to advance. They need to garner only 1 point from the matches between Roma and CSKA Moscow, with Roma having been defeated soundly beaten 3-0, and CSKA Moscow were victorious over Real Madrid, 1-0.
Barring a serious stumble, they seem almost guaranteed to slide into the knockout rounds. We won’t find out who they will play in the knockout rounds until the December 17th when the draw occurs.
I’m still in shock that I’m writing up Real Madrid as a Darkhorse, but they really have seemed to have a Ronaldo-sized hope they haven’t really been able to fill. They’ve tried various combinations to try and ease his move in to Juventus. The final straw for the new manager, Julen Lopetegui, was their decimation by Barcelona. The team just generally played very poorly, but Barcelona made them pay for every, single mistake.
The recent sacking of Lopetegui had given a shot to caretaker manager (now signed through at least the end of the season), Santiago Solari. Solari has had four opportunities which became four straight wins for the side who was struggling under Lopetegui.
Solari was promoted from Castilla (the Real B side) after two successful seasons. In Spain a caretaker manager can only be in charge for two weeks. Then they must either be signed to a deal for the rest of the season or another manager selected. They’ve chosen to sign him as manager on a three-year deal to keep him with the club!
We’ll see you next week!