I watched Real Madrid outplayed by Chelsea for most of last night. The visitors performed exceptionally well to take a three goal lead and could have put the game out of sight before Real got a foothold in the game.
Chelsea won twice in Spain in last season’s Champions League, scoring five without reply at Sevilla and Atletico, before taking a draw at Real in the semi-final, they know how to compete in this competition. No team, however, knows more about winning in the Champions League than Real Madrid.
Real win this tournament when they are well below par domestically, they find an assured calmness to their play, even when, as last night, they were 0-3 down and the obits were being written about coach Carlo Ancelotti. This is all down to corporate memory. More than any team in football, they know how to perform under intense pressure on the big stage.
You have witnessed this on a smaller scale in Scotland. Celtic’s 36 game unbeaten run in domestic cup competitions, from 2016 to 2020, defined credulity. Form varied during that run, the only consistent was outcome. Celtic won so many knockout games, they knew most of the pitfalls and prepared thoroughly.
If anything, form at semi-finals and finals is even more impressive. Celtic are on a run of 18 successive wins on these Hampden occasions, without once going to extra time. Others must reach the National Stadium and start work on blocking out so many bad memories. When you go up against Real Madrid in the Champions League, or Celtic in the Scottish or League Cup, you have a chance, but whatever you have in your locker, you cannot match the winning attributes of persistent champions.