After two hard-fought come-backs over Paris-Saint Germain and Chelsea, Real Madrid reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League earlier this month. On Tuesday night, they met Pep Guardiola’s side at Etihad in the hope of putting one foot into the final.
On the night, Ancelotti had his regular defensive line back in action with David Alaba, declared fit to participate too. In midfield, Federico Valverde replaced the injured Casemiro, while Rodrygo started alongside Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr in the attack.
The game did not start well for the visitors. Two minutes in and Los Blancos stared at a deficit.
Kevin de Bruyne was the one who delivered the first blow onto Ancelotti’s plan, as the Belgian international got onto the end of Riyad Mahrez’s magical cross.
Things went from bad to worse. Nine minutes later, the scoreboard showed 2-0 in favour of Manchester City. A defensive mistake from David Alaba gave the ball on a platter for Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian made no mistake, slamming the ball into the back of the net.
Madrid recovered from the shock around minute 20, after which they began to create chances of their own. Eventually, they had their reward in the 33rd minute.
Karim Benzema was the one to pull one back for Real Madrid. Ferland Mendy initiated the attack with an accurate deep cross before the striker volleyed it past Ederson. It was a finish to remember from Benzema.
The second half brought with it more intense football, better chances and more goals. It took less than ten minutes for the scoring to restart after the referee’s whistle.
Phil Foden restores City’s two-goal margin in the 53rd minute, but the goal was only possible because of Fernandinho. The Brazilian darted down the right-wing and delivered a perfect cross into the box before the English forward headed the ball past Courtois.
Minutes after becoming the hero for his team, Fernandinho turned into the villain. The substitute’s error set Vinicius Jr free inside their half, and the Brazilian drove a low shot past his compatriot to make the score 3-2.
Despite seeing five goals on the night, one just knew that there was more to come. Bernardo Silva delivered that in the 74th minute to as he took advantage of a foul on Zinchenko and curled the ball into the top-left corner.
Ten minutes from full-time, Madrid earned a penalty as Aymeric Laporte was judged to have handled the ball.
Benzema stepped up to take the spot kick and converted it with brilliant technique, panenka-ing it past Ederson.
Three minutes were added on the night, but neither side could find the back of the net again. Heading into the Bernabeu, Real Madrid need to win by at least a two-goal margin to secure a spot in the final.
Final score: Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.