The table-toppers clash in Group F of the UEFA Champions League featured Real Madrid taking on Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu. While the hosts had got their European campaign off to the perfect start, Shakhtar was not far behind with four of a possible six points in two games.
With the Ukrainian club being Los Blancos‘ only real competition to finish on top of the group, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needed to pick up all three points.
For the UCL clash, the manager picked Andre Lunin in goal with Eder Militao and David Alaba deployed in central defence. Daniel Carvajal and Ferland Mendy completed the defence at right and left-back, respectively.
Toni Kroos led the midfield with Aurelien Tchouameni and Federico Valverde under his command. The forward line saw the trio of Karim Benzema, Vinicius Jr, and Rodrygo start.
The game got off to a flier in the 13th minute as Rodrygo scored sublimely to give the hosts the lead. The move began with Tchouameni, who did well to find the Brazilian. However, the goal was completely down to Rodrygo’s pinpoint finishing into the right corner.
Just fifteen minutes later, Real Madrid doubled their lead through a lovely team goal. The move saw all three forwards link up beautifully to evade Shakhtar’s defence before Rodrygo slid the ball across to Vinicius for a simple finish.
The one-way traffic continued for the next ten minutes as Madrid piled on attack after attack on an exhausted Ukrainian defence. Yet, Igor Jovicevic’s side kept their cool and kept themselves from conceding.
Eventually, Shakhtar got one back in the 39th minute when Mykahailichenko’s cross from the left side found Zubkov. Up against the Real Madrid goalkeeper, the 26-year-old striker perfectly timed his volley and sent the ball into the netting.
The second period started in a familiar fashion. Real Madrid kept the possession and stepped on the gas while Shakhtar’s attacks were limited to the occasional counter. The visitors did indeed have their chances to restore parity, but Real Madrid had a far superior number of chances to put the game out of sight.
Carlo Ancelotti gave Eduardo Camavinga a run in place of Tchouameni in the 75th minute and rested the new signing given the tight calendar. Marcos Asensio got to grace the pitch, too, coming on for Rodrygo in the final ten minutes.
No goals headlined the second period, but it was not for lack of chances. Poor finishing, and some brilliance from Anatolii Trubin kept the scoreline at 2-1, but the figure was flattering on the visitors.
With this win, Real Madrid get back to winning ways after dropping points at the weekend and comfortably move atop group F. They next face off against Getafe on Saturday before playing Shakhtar again next week.
Three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid | La Liga GW 27
Back in November, Real Madrid locked horns with Valencia for the first time in the 2023-24 campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu. Their outing on the night could not have gone better as they put five goals past a helpless opposition who completely deflated under pressure.
A Dani Carvajal goal followed by braces from Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo sealed the deal on the night, with Valencia’s compensation coming in the form of a late, and solitary goal, from Hugo Duro.
On Saturday night, the two teams lock horns again. This time, Los Che will have the home advantage and the single factor could well be responsible for the drastic change in resistance Los Blancos could face on the night. After all, the Mestalla is not an easy fortress to conquer.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid.
Real Madrid have been without Jude Bellingham for close to three weeks now. The talisman last featured for Los Blancos in their 4-0 drubbing of Girona, but an ankle injury forced him off the field and out of action.
The youngster was soon joined by Joselu on the sidelines after the Spanish veteran suffered an ankle injury in training last week. Tests revealed a poor prognosis, effectively ruling Joselu out for three weeks.
Bellingham’s return to fitness has been speculated for a while now, and Ancelotti confirmed the same in his pre-match press conference. Bellingham will be available for selection on the night and could well start against Valencia.
The second recovery from injury, of Joselu, is nothing short of miraculous. Having been diagnosed with bone edema, it is almost unbelievable that the veteran is back in action just seven days later.
With Ancelotti confirming the duo’s availability on the night, Real Madrid can breathe a sigh of relief. After all, they will be rejuvenated in the final third where they have had to depend on just Vinicius Jr, Brahim Diaz, and Rodrygo Goes. A massive boost.
Playing Valencia at the Mestalla can be hell. History is a testament that the historic stadium is a fortress for Los Che, one that even the best teams in the world often falter at.
The story for Real Madrid at Mestalla is no different. The men in white may have dominated most of Spain’s stadiums over the years, but their record at Valencia’s home is not particularly encouraging.
Real Madrid and Los Che have locked horns at Mestalla ten times since 2015. Of those, Los Blancos have emerged victors just three times. Valencia have won on a staggering five occasions while two ended in a draw.
More worryingly, the Merengues have conceded a total of 17 goals in the aforementioned ten outings while scoring 16 times. Their most recent meeting, last season, ended in a 1-0 win for the hosts which currently reflects as the one-goal lead over the nine years.
If reports in the media are to be believed, the weekend’s clash between the leaders and Ruben Baraja’s side is sold out. The Mestalla will be at full capacity for the first time this season, and it is clear that a frightening atmosphere awaits Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Conquering the Mestalla after failing last season will hand the Merengues a big boost not only on the table but in terms of confidence heading into the fag end of the season. A defeat, meanwhile, could see their lead at the top cut to three points.
Need for conviction
Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last eight games across all competitions. Their only defeats this season have come to Atletico Madrid, and it is clear that they are sailing with the tide of momentum.
Yet, there has been something strangely tight about the team’s recent games.
Right from the 1-0 win over Leipzig where the Germans dominated and deserved a win in the UEFA Champions League, Ancelotti’s men have appeared slightly out of tune.
The tight UCL win was followed by a 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga that can only be described as fair. After all, the hosts created as much, if not more threat than Real Madrid on the night.
Most recently, the Merengues salvaged a tight 1-0 win over Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu. The deadlock did not break until the 81st minute of the night, and only a Golazo from Luka Modric ensured that they took home three points.
Los Blancos, thus, are in dire need of a win with conviction. A showing like the performance they dished out against Girona will go a long way, especially with the second leg of the UCL Round of 16 just around the corner.
Will Bellingham’s return to the XI do the trick for Real Madrid in that sense? Or are they lacking something apart from the English protege’s brilliance? Only time will tell.