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PETE JENSON: Real Madrid’s clash at Galatasaray is ALREADY a must-win if they are to top the group

Nothing says ‘bad start to the season’ like a must-win game in November. And Real Madrid’s home match with Galatasaray is being billed as just that.

If they are to have any chance of topping their group they need to win it. Even then they are likely to go into the last round of matches with their fate in Paris Saint-Germain’s hands.

Zinedine Zidane was winking at Kylian Mbappe again on Tuesday. ‘He said it himself, that his dream was to end up playing in Real Madrid,’ said the Real Madrid coach before one of his trademark ‘you know what I’m trying to say’ grins.

Real Madrid’s clash with Galatasaray is being labelled as a ‘must-win’ for Zinedine Zidane’s men

Marca described Real Madrid's game with Galatasaray as 'win or win' on Wednesday morning

While AS have labelled Karim Benzema as 'Mr Champions League' with the forward set to match Di Stefano's tally of 49 goals in Europe if he scores against Galatasaray

Marca describe the game as ‘win or win’ while AS label Benzema as ‘Mr Champions League’

For now the reality is that Mbappe plays for the team sitting at the top of Group A with nine points from nine. And Real Madrid with Vinicius, Gareth Bale and Rodrygo are languishing five points behind.

On Wednesday there will be no Vinicius because Zidane, not for the first time this season, has left him out of the squad. 

And there is no Bale, who Zidane did a decent job of defending on Tuesday by reminding everyone that players are obliged to come to games when not playing but are allowed to leave early. He even revealed Bale was in the dressing room pre-game.

Rodrygo Goes plays instead of Bale and on the 18-year-old’s shoulders rests the responsibility of partnering Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard in attack.

Kylian Mbappe and PSG are currently sitting at the top of Group A with nine points from nine

Kylian Mbappe and PSG are currently sitting at the top of Group A with nine points from nine

No one at the start of the season saw this particular front three coming. The wild optimists among Madrid fans believed it would be Hazard, Benzema and Mbappe. 

The way the season started it looked as if it would be Hazard, Benzema and Bale. 

Instead it’s the teenager with the task and he has looked up to it so far. Galatasaray always leave plenty of space in behind their defence. If he can expose that, Real Madrid will at least have qualification almost secured.

Watching Barcelona ponder to a 0-0 draw at home to Slavia Prague has put Real Madrid’s start to the season into some perspective – if they are not panicking at the Nou Camp then why should we panic here, say the Madridistas.

They know good things are on the way. Achraf Hakimi was brilliant again on Tuesday night for his loan club Borussia Dortmund and he will be back at the club next season alongside Martin Odegaard. 

While Real flirt with signing Mbappe, Zidane will start Rodrygo Goes on Wednesday night

While Real flirt with signing Mbappe, Zidane will start Rodrygo Goes on Wednesday night

Achraf Hakimi was brilliant again on Tuesday night for his loan club Borussia Dortmund

Martin Odegaard has also stood out for Real Sociedad this campaign

Good things are on the way with Achraf Hakimi (L) and Martin Odegaard (R) shining out on loan

The long-term future seems good. But in the short term, this season must produce either a league title or another Champions League.

Zidane has at least found his best XI. Behind Hazard, Benzema and Rodrygo, Toni Kroos looks revitalised as an attacking force. And he has been given more license to get forward by the rapid development of Fede Valverde. 

The 21-year-old Uruguayan has something of a young Steven Gerard to his game and with his long-strided box-to-box dynamism – running between midfield anchor Casemiro and the born-again Kroos – Real Madrid have found their midfield mojo.

They still look susceptible at the back but Marcelo says he feels much better than last season, while Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are still a pair of World Cup winners in front of the improving Thibaut Courtois.

Real have found their midfield mojo with Toni Kroos (R) and Casemiro (L) firing on all cylinders

Real have found their midfield mojo with Toni Kroos (R) and Casemiro (L) firing on all cylinders

Bizarrely, in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo world that Real Madrid now inhabit, it’s Benzema who everyone turns to for reliability.

He top-scored last season and is leading the way once again, to the extent that when Zidane took him off late on in a game at the weekend, where Real Madrid were struggling to break the deadlock, there was criticism of the decision.

Such a reaction would have been unimaginable in past seasons when he was no stranger to walking off to a chorus of whistles.

It’s now 14 years since he first turned up at the Bernabeu as a 17-year-old unused substitute for Lyon. He left that night with a Real Madrid shirt signed by his hero Ronaldo Nazario.

In 2009 Real Madrid signed him from Lyon precisely because president Florentino Perez saw something of Ronaldo in him. The comparison is not a great one but the goals have come.

Benzema is now the man that Real turn to for reliability and he remains prolific in Europe

Benzema is now the man that Real turn to for reliability and he remains prolific in Europe

With 60 to his name in Europe he is fourth in the list of all-time top scorers.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo with 127 goals and Lionel Messi with 113 are ahead of him of the players that are still playing. He also trails Real Madrid legend Raul, who scored 71 goals.

If Benzema can produce another big performance on Wednesday night then Madrid should be in pole position to finish second in the group. 

That word ‘second’ however still grates at the Bernabeu. And when group leaders PSG turn up in two weeks’ time with Mbappe – it will grate, even more so.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk