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Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin: Player Ratings

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Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

The UEFA Champions is known for pitting Europe’s biggest names against each other year after year as they fight for glory.

However, one of the equally enthralling parts of the competition is the pedestal it gives the lesser-known sides to brush shoulders with the elite.

Often, such teams do not have much to lose and push to the very end against some of the competition favourites. Real Madrid’s clash against Union Berlin was a reflection of the same.

Real Madrid had only failed to score in only one of their last 68 home UCL clashes ahead of Wednesday’s game. However, the Berlin-based side frustrated the hosts with resilient defence and almost held them to a shocking draw in Group C.

In the end, it was only a last-minute winner from Jude Bellingham that gave his side all three points.

Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings from the Merengues’ UCL curtain raiser.

Kepa Arrizabalaga: 6

Kepa was largely undisturbed on the night, for Union rarely ventured far forward enough to threaten on goal. Almost paid for a moment of distraction in the opening period but followed it up with a solid show whenever called into action.

Lucas Vazquez: 7.5

With Daniel Carvajal missing the UCL opener through fitness troubles, Lucas Vazquez made his first start of the season for Los Blancos on Wednesday night.

He did not have much defensive work to put in but made a tangible impact on the final third with his incisive passes and combination play.

Vazquez recorded over 100 passes and provided six key passes against Union Berlin.

Antonio Rudiger: 7.5

The Berlin-based star was rock solid in defence for Real Madrid against the team based in his hometown. He struck the right balance of caution and physicality to play it safe whilst also giving the visitors no chance in the final third.

Made a stunning 14 defensive actions at Santiago Bernabeu.

David Alaba: 6.5

The Austrian star started at left-back as Ancelotti opted to give Fran Garcia some rest amidst the hectic schedule. Was solid defensively, albeit had little to do on that front. Moved to central defence after Garcia was substituted in the second half.

Nacho Fernandez: 6.5

The captain started in central defence on the night and played 73 minutes for Los Blancos. Despite his relative dearth of playing time, he was confident with both his distribution and defensive actions on the night.

Luka Modric: 8.5

The Croatian star started the game against Union Berlin and dictated the tempo of play. Delivered a performance for the ages, as has become a norm for him.

Modric completed five key passes on the night, 95% of his passes and a staggering five long balls. Had a solid strike from distance parried away by the goalkeeper in the 70th minute. Came off for the final 10 minutes.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 7

The French international was reliable in the pivot position, as he has been this season. Yet, he was lucky to escape with a yellow card in the first half for an unnecessarily dangerous challenge that had even the referee considering a red card.

Eduardo Camavinga: 8

Impressive. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Starting in midfield, Camavinga was a regular part of Real Madrid’s build-up play, especially with his driving runs forward. Provided an astonishing four key passes, completed 100% of his long balls, and completed over 90% of his passes on the night.

Jude Bellingham: 8

The new signing was a positive influence on the field, yet nowhere close to the high standards he set for himself with recent performances. Mounted regular threats in the final third and did well to link up with Modric, Kroos, and Joselu.

Despite his relatively off day, he was there when his team needed him the most. Pounced on the rebound off Valverde’s long-range strike to gift Real Madrid another late win.

Rodrygo: 6.5

The Brazilian prodigy started slowly but grew in importance as the game progressed. While he did have his moments of brilliance in the second half, Rodrygo was never involved to the extent one would expect him to.

When on the ball, the youngster did well to find space. Unfortunately, he did not get the ball regularly enough and was nullified by the Union defence and shotstopper.

Joselu: 7

The veteran got into great goalscoring positions early into the game but just could not find the right finish. Minutes past the hour mark, he once again found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat but fluffed the chance.

The whole game that followed was more of the same. Joselu had no luck in front of the goal and could not score despite recording over eight shots.

Substitutes

Toni Kroos: 7

The German maestro brought more finesse and composure to Real Madrid’s midfield, but it just was almost not enough on the night.

Federico Valverde: 8

Replacing Camavinga, Valverde did a good job of teeing up with the forwards to generate more threat in the final third.

Created the space and chance for Bellingham to deposit the winner.

Fran Garcia: 6

The Spanish full-back came on as a late substitute at left-back but could not generate much serious threat in the final third.

Brahim Diaz: NA

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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