Real Madrid will look to end the Champions’ League group stages on a high when they meet Club Brugge in Belgium tonight.
Zinedine Zidane’s men have already qualified for the knockout phases in second place, while Brugge look set to slip into the Europa League by finishing third.
From the very start, Brugge would have known that qualifying from a group containing PSG and Madrid was an essentially impossible task.
As predicted, Brugge will not progress any further in this competition, but can claim to have produced genuinely competitive displays against the two giants.
Indeed, aside from a 5-0 home defeat to PSG, Brugge’s young team has pushed their opponents to the wire, claiming a 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu in a game that they would have won if Casemiro had not grabbed a last minute equaliser.
That they have taken a point off the aforementioned duo of teams serves as the only difference between the Belgian side and Galatasaray, who look set to finish this group on two points – both coming from draws against Brugge.
Claiming a victory at home to the La Liga giants would serve as due reward for how Brugge have conducted themselves in this competition.
Following a calamitous 2018-19 season, Los Blancos are showing signs of being back to their old selves under Zidane, who returned to the club in March.
The Spanish side are unbeaten in nine games across all competitions and are level on points with leaders Barcelona in La Liga, and seem to be going through their gears.
However, there remains the question of just how potent this Madrid side, under Zidane, can be in Europe following the trauma of that 4-1 defeat to Ajax earlier this year.
Draws at home with Brugge and PSG, for example, could be seen as evidence that Real do not boast the same core brilliance that guided them to three consecutive European titles between 2016 and 2018.
Zidane will know that, despite the meeting with Brugge being an essentially meaningless game, Real’s performance today could set the tone for how they perform in the knockouts when February rolls around.
Krepin Diatta and Clinton Mata will both miss this game for Brugge after both players were sent off amid the celebrations following the former scoring a last minute equaliser against Galatasaray.
Real, on the other hand, look set to be without Eden Hazard, who picked up an ankle injury against PSG, while James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio are expected to return in the new year.
Nacho has a chance of making a return to the side after coming back to training over the last week.
Lucas Vazquez misses the game with a broken toe along with Marcelo, who continues to battle a calf injury.
As they have done for most of the campaign, Brugge will stay in the game and create some decent openings, but Madrid’s superior quality – along with some fresh, less proven faces who are determined to stamp their authority – looks likely to give the visitors a narrow victory. – SportsMole