The script of the Champions League quarterfinals between Real Madrid and Chelsea will go down in history as one of the Champions League’s finest.
Traveling away to Stamford Bridge, Los Blancos secured a solid 3-1 lead over their London-based opponents last week. Real Madrid’s dominant performance in England made one believe that the game was buried and the result written in stone.
Yet, Thomas Tuchel’s side were on a mission at the Bernabeu. Heading into the second leg, the defending champions required at least three goals to secure a place in the semifinals.
For 75 minutes, Chelsea were the better team on the field. The English side pressed high, won balls, and created chance after chance against a poor Real Madrid defence. With fifteen minutes to go, they led 4-3 and seemed set to progress.
Luka Modric’s brilliance gave the hosts a second chance by taking the game to extra time. Then, Karim Benzema happened.
When Ancelotti’s side were in search of a winner in extra-time, the Frenchman combined sublimely with Vinicius Jr to get the better of Edouard Mendy. However, the goal was not an unexpected moment of brilliance but the execution of a well-thought-out pre-discussed plan.
Benzema and Vinicius were spotted discussing ideas before extra time as they looked for a winner. The Frenchman was gesturing player movements to the Brazilian on his palm, possibly explaining how he wanted the delivery for his header.
The striker’s movement for the eventual winner was sublime and a reminder of why he is currently the best player in the world. As Vinicius stormed down the right flank in the 94th minute, Benzema immediately spotted that his partner would have enough time to stall the play for a moment.
He instantly changed the direction of his run towards the open face of the goal at the far post. With no one marking his unexpected run, Benzema found himself in front of the goal and got onto the end of the Brazilian’s cross.
The two forwards have struck up an unstoppable partnership this season. The duo have 38 goals and 18 assists in the league between them, figures that several teams cannot boast of this season.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.