Louis Holas, our Champions Journalist fan reporter for Real, will be drawing on his cherished Bernabéu memories for tonight’s big game
The Santiago Bernabéu is not always renowned for its atmosphere. Most Liga games feel like a fait accompli; the fans sit expectant, waiting to be entertained, unsatisfied with anything other than a win. Champions League nights, especially in the knockout stage, are very different. The biggest games bring out the best from players and fans alike. There is a nervous excitement around the ground; there’s respect and a slight sense of fear, knowing that the opposition are not to be taken lightly. Though, at the same time, there is a sense of confidence in Real to overcome any challenge.
The atmosphere builds hours before kick-off. Fans heed the captain’s call to congregate at the Plaza de los Sagrados Corazones just outside the stadium; they wait for hours to welcome the players as they arrive on the team bus. Flags fly, scarves are waved, and one chant is repeated over and over again: “Somos Reyes de Europa” (“We are the Kings of Europe”). Inside the ground, the incessant drumbeat emanating from the Fondo Sur behind the goal continues throughout the night, only stopping for one thing: the Champions League anthem.
It’s four years since my last Champions League game at the Bernabéu: the quarter-final second leg against Juventus back in 2018. A late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty saw Madrid through on aggregate, on their way to a third consecutive Champions League triumph. Every knockout game I watch evokes those memories, as well as my envy of the lucky ones inside the Bernabéu. Tonight is no different: I will be watching from home, pacing around the living room and appealing for every decision as if I was in the stadium. Watching important matches from afar is never easy but I know the fans inside the Bernabéu will play their part.
It’s fair to say that I’m apprehensive about this game. The negativity I felt after the first leg remains, but that will dissipate as the famous anthem plays. It will reignite the excitement I felt four years ago; the same belief, the same butterflies. Defeating PSG won’t be easy, but I will always have faith in Real. A big night awaits. A good performance is important, but only one thing matters: winning.