Manchester United
12:00 PM UTC
Game Details

Real Madrid cannot match Juventus' energy and exit the Champions League

Two images toward the end of this match symbolized perfectly Real Madrid's defeat to Juventus in the Champions League semifinal.

The first came with a handful of minutes left. Dani Carvajal, ordinarily a buzz-bomb of a player, was unable to accelerate beyond a gentle trot in trying to recover his position as Juventus broke forward yet again. Not only could he not catch up but, when the move slowed and the ball broke loose, the full-back was so exhausted that he made only a desultory challenge to win possession when, in fact, regaining the ball was utterly vital.

He was like a rag doll, his limbs not in full communication with body or brain.

Later came a still starker image.

This is the "San Iker" competition. Real Madrid's goalkeeper has three winner's medals and a personal affiliation with the Champions League, one that regularly brings out his best. Indeed, on Wednesday he produced two of his trademark saves in the second half, diving to his left to deny Claudio Marchisio and then palming away a Paul Pogba pile driver. Those stops kept Madrid in this semifinal, kept the small candle of hope flickering in the face of a Turin tornado.

So when, in the dying seconds, Casillas raced out to the touchline to take a throw-in, it just looked like a captain, a leader and a winner about to launch one last offensive. Instead he got in such a muddle, without being pressurized by a Juventus player, that he couldn't even complete the simple task to Marcelo. Casillas sort of held the ball in front of his head and then dropped it for the full back -- it was a foul throw and perhaps the most bizarre image of the entire Champions League season.

However, it was representative of Madrid's general state of mental and physical fitness. What Carvajal and Casillas did, respectively, speaks of guys who are far from their peak.

There was an inability to reach deep inside and produce vital energy, an inability to complete a simple action that should have been as natural as breathing.

With their Champions League hopes on the line, Real Madrid ran out of steam vs. Juventus.

These things happen when you are not in key shape.

Yes, it's worth commenting that it was a steam bath of a night in Madrid with the temperature excessively high for early May. But that was the same for both teams and, boy, how Juventus coped!

In an echo of when Madrid were thumped 4-0 by Atletico Madrid earlier this season Los Blancos were vastly outrun. In the end, there was something like an 8 kilometre difference in distance covered by the Italian champions compared to the now deposed European champions. 

That is a stamina chasm.

The numbers also show Madrid's passing was down compared to their season averages, a further sign of sloppiness, tiredness and imprecision, which suggests they were not properly fit for task during this trophy run-in.

So, of course, everyone turns to the manager. With two trophies -- albeit the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup -- in the bag you can't call this season an all-out failure. However, Carlo Ancelotti stands accused -- and convicted -- of some very strange decisions in recent months, decisions that have come home to roost.

His declaration that the "BBC" of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo would start together whenever fit was an injustice to Jesé and Javier Hernandez and left Madrid significantly overdependent on their front three.

The inability to keep reserve full backs Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa in competitive shape cost a great deal as they were variously exposed by Atletico, by Schalke and, last weekend, by Valencia.

Ancelotti continued to state that his players were fine fitness-wise when it was patently clear that they were not. Given the Italian's son works in the Madrid fitness department, perhaps there has been a slight protective tone to those words.

And then there are the small, housekeeping decisions on which a season can turn, such as when and whether to drop Bale and the concept of letting Keylor Navas oust Casillas when his form dipped. There was the question of how to use Asier Illarramendi correctly and whether it was a wise idea, having succeeded once vs. Atletico, to continue with the risky deployment of Sergio Ramos in midfield in the first leg vs. Juventus.

All of these things required fine-tuning and aren't crimes of a heinous nature, but are elements that combined together to make a potentially historic season become a losing experience.

And all of that continued into this game. His players were being outworked and outrun in both offensive and defensive situations and what did Ancelotti do, pretty unforgivably? He omitted to use all three of his substitutions.

Real Madrid's exit means AC Milan's 1990 winners remain the last team to successfully defend the European Cup.

Juve manager Max Allegri made three changes with the intention of adding freshness and extra running from Fernando Llorente, Andrea Barzagli and Roberto Pereyra, but also to make tactical adjustments and to give his players a brief rest and eat up the clock a little bit while each substitute was coming on.

Ancelotti didn't see the need, and potential game-changers like Jese and Pepe were not given even 10 minutes during a time when the surge in determination and naked will to win should have been titanic for Madrid.

Now, of course, comes the inquest, and Bale's work will be clinically scrutinized.

While the Welshman had an active match and made Gianluigi Buffon work to keep Juve in the tie, he'll be hung out to dry by some parts of the Spanish media.

Above all, Bale should have scored with a back-post header that was lofted up for him by his strike partner, Ronaldo.

It was there to be tucked away, not directed over the bar. Again, that marginal difference between getting the jump right and nodding the ball home and timing the leap incorrectly before nudging the ball over has a lot to do with physical and mental freshness.

If Bale is to stay at the Bernabeu then a lot of serious thought, most of it from the player himself, needs to be given to work rate, attitude, fitness and learning Spanish. But, also, is Ronaldo's position on the left sacred? Couldn't Bale be tried in the role in which he made his name at Spurs?

How, above all, are Ronaldo and Bale to unite and make the whole greater than the sum of the parts rather than, as now, make it look as if they are playing, running, thinking and making decisions at cross-purposes?

Ancelotti, you'd imagine, probably won't be the man authoring such decisions.

Madrid are short in a number of positions, most notably goalkeeper, central midfield and goal scorer. There's a chap from Juventus who is doing quite well at the moment, Mr. President. His name is Alvaro Morata.

Real MadridReal Madrid
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 3
Game Details

There is a common saying heard around the Bernabeu leading up to nights like this. "We want 11 Juanitos" is the refrain and refers to Madrid's volatile, heart-on-sleeve but magical winger who led so many a comeback or inspirational night and who died in a car crash in 1992.

Not only is this the club with the most Champions' Cup victories, it's the one in the world where you can most often guarantee that the opposition will be put through a test of fire if they want to take a European victory away.

Not this time, however. The fans turned up, there was encouraging noise and the mosaics were eye-catching, yet not many times did the boys in white play with that "Once Juanitos" passion.

Not barnstorming enough, not irresistible enough and not fit enough.

Just look at how Toni Kroos is brushed out of the way for the crucial Juventus goal. He's like an indignant commuter who's just been pipped for a seat on the Metro by a cheeky youth -- harrumphing displeasure but not ready to impose himself physically.

Last season Real Madrid dramatically won this trophy thanks to a goal in added time and then three in extra time.

On Wednesday, Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson could have added all the time he wanted and Madrid still wouldn't have scored because they simply weren't fit enough to cope with the heat, the heavenly Italians and the crushing pressure associated with hope of a dramatic remontada, or fight back.

Not quite fit for purpose.

Graham Hunter covers Spain for ESPN FC and Sky Sports. Author of "Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World." Twitter: @BumperGraham.


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