Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho are on a mission. Club president Florentino Perez's demands to deliver to the Santiago Bernabeu faithful the club's first Champions League trophy since 2002. In the process the club's elusive 10th European Cup has prompted the men in white to go on a ruthless, rampaging run of victories this season.
Los Blancos have collected 20 wins out of 23 La Liga games this term and they have also notched up six victories out of six in the Champions League having become only the fifth club to win all of its group stage matches. AC Milan in 1992-93, Paris Saint-Germain (1994-95), Spartak Moscow (1995-96) and Barcelona (2002-03) are the only other sides to have achieved this feat since the European Cup was renamed the Champions League.
However, only the Blaugrana have succeeded in extending the winning stretch beyond the six group stage victories, adding three more in the second group phase to make it nine in a row before the streak was halted by a 0-0 draw against Inter in San Siro.
The sequence is a record in the Champions League, one that was set not by Pep Guardiola's all-conquering multiple champions, but by the 2002-03 side that had Louis van Gaal on the touchline orchestrating stars such as Patrick Kluivert, Javier Saviola, Luis Enrique, Phillip Cocu, and Frank De Boer as well as a young Xavi and Carles Puyol. This season, Madrid has a chance to match and break that milestone.
Mourinho's troops are still three very long knockout games away from equaling the record, but they will become, amazingly, only the second team ever after Barca to win seven games in succession in the Champions League proper if they triumph in Moscow tonight. And Los Blancos will fancy their chances.
Madrid does have the disadvantage of the biting cold Moscow winter, but that is almost nullified by CSKA's competitive inactivity due to the mid-season break in the Russian Premier League. The Spaniards have also won in both of their most recent trips to Russia, claiming victory over Lokomotiv Moscow in 2003 and Zenit St Petersburg in 2008. More encouragingly for the Madrid fans, Mourinho has a 100 percent record against CSKA in four meetings as Chelsea and Inter boss, netting five goals and conceding none.
For Jose's men to equal their arch-nemesis' record of nine consecutive victories, they would have to go on and beat their quarterfinal opponent in the first leg. With wins all the way through the second leg of the last eight the club will have achieved a new record of 10 on the trot in the competition proper. The Catalans will argue that in the 2002-03 campaign, they actually strung together 11 wins in a row as they won both their games in the qualifying round.
Whether it's nine or 11 in the record books, this ravenous Madrid side will have no better opportunity of obliterating that sequence than this campaign. That only five clubs over a 20-year period have managed to win all six of their group encounters is testament to the difficulty in putting together an extended series of victories.
But if there's one team that can help preserve Barca's record, it's Barca. With the absurd number of occasions the Blaugrana have faced off against Los Blancos over the last 12 months, don't bet against another Clasico showdown in the quarterfinals where Guardiola's side can put the brakes on Madrid's run just when that club is about to match or smash Barcelona's record.