At times, they have looked a shadow of the team that swept to Champions League and Liga glory last season and crushed Manchester United and Barca to win the European and Spanish Super Cups.
And a thrilling game of twists and turns did not disappoint as local favourites Al Jazira, seeking to secure a historic place in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 final, came close to causing an extraordinary upset against the footballing giants of Real Madrid, ultimately falling just short in a 2-1 defeat.
They won La Liga, the Champions League, UEFA and Spanish Super Cup in a thrilling fashion after hitting top form in a four-month spell between April and August, but since then the European champions have faded, understandably worn out by a heavy schedule.
Ronaldo's goal against Al-Jazira makes him the all-time leading scorer in the Club World Cup on six goals.
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"It is not going to be easy for us".
"It is a very important tournament for us", the Portuguese forward said.
But it was Gareth Bale who played the part of the hero on the night.
This will be Madrid's third final in the last four editions (2014 and 2016) and they will be gunning for their third Club World Cup title.
Cristiano Ronaldo equalised shortly afterwards and substitute Bale scored moments after his introduction with nine minutes left to set up a final clash with Brazilians Gremio on Saturday.
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