Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid side outclassed Shakhtar Donetsk in an entertaining game on Wednesday night to extend their lead atop their Champions League group. The 2-1 scoreline is kind on the Ukrainian side who deserved to lose by a far bigger margin against the European Champions.
The win takes Los Blancos to a perfect score of nine points in three games while Donetsk are placed second with four. While the final standings are far from being mathematically closed, one would expect that the result is enough to seal the top spot for the hosts.
Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr got onto the scoreboard early in the first half before the opposition pulled one back later in the opening period. The second half was filled with opportunities for both sides, but poor finishing kept the score to a modest 2-1.
Madrid Universal beings you the player ratings from Real Madrid 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk.
Andriy Lunin: 6
After Thibaut Courtois’s injury, Lunin has been thrown into the deep end all of a sudden. Shakhtar Donetsk barely tested him at Santiago Bernabeu but he looked a bit shaky when called into action and conceded a goal. Yet, he did make two saves.
Daniel Carvajal: 5.5
The Spanish veteran did not have much to do in defence with the Ukrainians only producing the sporadic counter-attack. However, his contribution to attack was close to nil on a night when Real Madrid dominated the possession. Not one of his six crosses found the target and he also failed to complete any dribbles.
Eder Militao: 7.5
Los Blancos’ centre-backs were on point against the visitors, barely putting a foot wrong. Militao was at the centre of Real Madrid’s defence, making crucial interceptions. Made three clearances, two interceptions, and two tackles and won nine duels on the night.
David Alaba: 8
Apart from an inspiring performance in defence, the Austrian international was heavily involved in the buildup play for Ancelotti’s side. He made four key passes and created one big chance in addition to his 11 defensive actions. Moreover, five of his six attempted crosses reached the intended target.
Ferland Mendy: 6
The left-back was solid and did not have much defensive work to do. He completely nullified Maryan Shved and Yukhm Konoplia and won the battle on the left. However, his attacking contribution was minimal.
Federico Valverde: 8.5
The Uruguayan’s transformation this season has been otherworldly. Given his current form, it would not be an overstatement to say that he is a guaranteed starter in the crowded midfield of Real Madrid.
Against Shakhtar, the youngster produced a whopping seven key passes and took three shots. He completely owned the right flank and finished the game as one of the best players in white.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 7.5
Placed as a defensive midfielder, Tchouameni did his job well right until he was substituted off in the 75th minute. However, the fact of the matter is that he was barely tested defensively. A good display with close to 99% pass accuracy but there is a feeling that he could have contributed more in the attacking play.
Toni Kroos: 8
The beauty of Toni Kroos’ game is that his contributions are not noticeable until he is off the field. However, the entire structure of Real Madrid would crumble without him.
He was the most involved player in the game, once again clocking north of 100 touches. Moreover, he made five key passes and dictated not only the tempo of the play but the distribution of Los Blancos’ attacks.
The closest contender to Federico Valverde as Real Madrid’s best player on the field, Rodrygo was involved in both goals against the Ukrainians. His astonishing shot from distance helped Los Blancos take the lead in the first half before he clinically laid the ball to Vinicius’ feet for the second goal.
Karim Benzema: 7.5
In terms of general performance, Karim Benzema was a monster on the field. He orchestrated Real Madrid’s play in the final third and his cheeky touches and passes bamboozled the Shakhtar defence time and time again.
However, he was far from his best in front of goal. Despite recording four shots on target and a handful more off it, he failed to get onto the scoresheet.
Vinicius Jr: 8
Another game, another goal for Vinicius Jr. However, he could have easily had a hat-trick or even more against Igor Jovicevic’s side. Nevertheless, he continues to be an unstoppable force on the left wing for the club and is on course for a record-breaking season.
Eduardo Camavinga: 6
Made just nine touches in his 15-minute spell with nothing particularly productive arising from them.
Marco Asensio: 7
Came on for ten minutes, hit the woodwork once, made a key pass and had one shot blocked.
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.