Real Madrid intimidate their rivals and are still the team to beat in Europe – even without playing well

How do Real Madrid do it? Even amid a crisis or a poor run of form, the club commands respect in Europe and other teams seem to shrink in their presence.

Juventus had been incredibly impressive in the run to the final of last year’s Champions League, but Los Blancos blew them away in a one-sided second half in Cardiff.

Atletico appeared to have their measure in the derby, beating Real in La Liga, Copa and Supercopa, but in the two Champions League finals, Madrid found a way to win. In Europe, they almost always do.

This season, Betis, Leganés, Girona, Tottenham, Barcelona, Villarreal had all defeated Real. La Liga is gone, so too the Copa. But on Wednesday, you just sensed it would be different.

PSG arrived as Europe’s top-scoring side. Yet Madrid produced once again. Without playing particularly well, Zinedine Zidane’s side delivered when it mattered most.

It should no longer be a surprise. While Barcelona usually need to dominate in order to be successful, Madrid have long been masters at soaking it up and winning. Their 12 European Cups are testament to that.

Apart from the comprehensive victories over Valencia in 2000 (3-0) and Juventus last year (4-1), Real have not impressed in many of their recent European finals. Not in 1998, not in 2002, 2014 nor in 2016. But they won every time.

In the Champions League, Real come alive. All else may be lost in the remainder of this season, but when the famous music blares, Madrid’s men will be ready for action. And so it proved again on Wednesday.

Former supermodel Linda Evangelista once said: “I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day…” And there is something similar about how Real’s players approach the game’s glamour competition. Only the Champions League seems to really get them going.

That is perhaps why Real so often lack the consistency to win La Liga, having claimed just one title since 2012, but can raise their game so spectacularly in the Champions League – even in the depths of a crisis.

From day one – literally, after winning the first five editions of the European Cup –, Madrid have mastered the art of winning the knockout competition.

Now they have swept aside an expensively assembled PSG side so desperate to buy their way to success in Europe – and don’t bet against them claiming a third successive title in May if they come through a tough second leg in Paris.

If they win the trophy again, some will wonder how they have done it when for much of the season they have not even been very good.

The truth is, they do not need to be – and they know full well they can up the tempo when necessary to win the biggest prize of all. It’s their trophy and they won’t let it go without a fight.

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