Real Madrid kick off their Champions League adventure this Wednesday night, September 15, with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior currently the most clinical partnership across Europe's top five leagues.
Their first game will take place against Inter at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and it's worth remembering that these two teams faced each other in last season's group stage. In November 2020, Real Madrid won 2-0 in Milan thanks to a strike from Eden Hazard and an Achraf Hakimi own goal.
Taking a look at the stats, no other team in Europe has an attacking pair that has been involved in as many goals as Real Madrid's duo of Benzema and Vinicius. So far, they have scored nine goals of Real Madrid's 13 goals, with the Frenchman grabbing five and the Brazilian netting five.
Benzema also has four assists, which puts him ahead of Erling Haaland when it comes to goal contributions, as the Borussia Dortmund star has five goals and three assists. Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, has four goals and two assists, with his teammate Ander Herrera registering five goal contributions, of which three have been goals.
Hazard's chance to step up
Now that Gareth Bale is injured, the responsibility has fallen to Hazard to step up and join the example set by Benzema and Vinicius to become the third member of Real Madrid's new attacking trident. The last recognisable strikeforce for Los Blancos was the BBC trident, which was formed by Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
There is no doubt that the Champions League is Benzema's specialty. At present he is the fourth-highest scoring player in the competition to still be playing, behind Robert Lewandowski (75), Lionel Messi (120) and Cristiano Ronaldo (135). The Real Madrid No.9 is level with club legend Raul Gonzalez on 71 goals in Europe.
Vinicius still has some way to go to fully establish himself in Europe, however. He had moments of brilliance, notably against Ajax in March 2019 before leaving the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu injured and in tears as Real Madrid crashed out of the competition. Last season the 21-year-old had one of his finest performances against Liverpool at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, scoring twice.
In turn, European competition does not give great memories to Vinicius, who was an unused sub away at Manchester City two years ago as Real Madrid were beaten and knocked in the last 16. It was a lack of faith from former head coach Zinedine Zidane, which damaged the Brazilian's confidence and impacted his form for some time after the game.
Last season, it was Chelsea who provided the final blow to Real Madrid as the London side went onto lift the trophy. Vinicius had another troubled two games against Thomas Tuchel's team, failing to impact the game on either occasion, despite starting.
Now, Real Madrid return to a place that brings back some great memories to the side. The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza was the location of their memorable win against Atletico Madrid in the 2016 Champions League final. Last season they were able to win in front of an eerily empty stadium, but now there will be around 37,000 spectators in a half-full San Siro for this opening group-stage clash.