No one could have predicted the twists and turns that yesterday’s Champions League clash witnessed. Real Madrid were expected to cruise to an easy win over the defending champions after a commanding 3-1 win in the first leg.
However, what unfolded at the Santiago Bernabeu was a cracker of a game. Chelsea scored three goals to take the lead over Real Madrid before the hosts pulled two back to advance to the semifinals.
The game showed that Los Blancos have their shortcomings, but also showed that they can turn up the heat whenever needed and overwhelm even the best teams in the world.
Thibaut Courtois: 8
The Belgian shot-stopper can just never have a poor outing. The bigger the game, the better is Courtois’s performance.
When faced against his former club in a high-pressure game, the 29-year-old made four key saves including three from inside the box. It was his diving save against Ziyech’s shot in the 114th minute that denied Chelsea a late equaliser.
Daniel Carvajal: 6
Tasked with keeping a hold on Timo Werner and Marcos Alonso, Carvajal had a rather mixed night. Alonso got the better of him more often than not, both inside and outside the box, but Carvajal made up for that with his defending after being placed as a centre-back.
Nacho Fernandez: 7
The absence of Eder Militao was expected to create a big weakness in Real Madrid’s backline, for the Brazilian has been a solid partner to David Alaba this season.
However, the void was barely felt in the game as long as Nacho was on the field. Up until his injury, the Spaniard provided a steady performance though he did have his fair share of forgettable moments.
David Alaba: 6
In the opening hour, Real Madrid’s defence seemed clueless on how to stop Chelsea. However, the defence stepped up when it was needed the most and Alaba was one of the key players in that respect.
The Austrian had five tackles, three clearances and blocked one shot on the night at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Ferland Mendy: 5
It was one of those nights where Mendy seemed one step behind the rest of the team. While the rest of the players tried to create openings and traverse forward, the French international struggled in the final third and managed only one cross.
Luka Modric: 9
Age is just a number for Luka Modric, for the Croatian international shows no signs of regression. To say that Real Madrid are still in the Champions League because of the midfielder would be fair.
When Chelsea scored their third goal, and all hope seemed lost, it was Modric who created an opening for his team out of absolutely nothing. The veteran played an unbelievable outside-the-boot pass into the English side’s box and laid it on a platter for Rodrygo.
For the opening period, Casemiro looked overwhelmed by the pressure and failed to provide the resistance he normally brings to the game. However, his display improved as the game progressed.
Given Chelsea’s continuous waves of attacks, Casemiro could not make any contribution in the final third. Yet, his ten duels won and four tackles show his work rate and dedication.
Toni Kroos: 4
Of Real Madrid’s three big names in midfield, Kroos had the most forgettable night. While the German made no mistakes per se, he failed to have the impact he would have liked to on the night.
Federico Valverde: 8
Even after 100 exhausting minutes and when substitutes themselves began to tire, there was one man who was running around and winning balls without breaking a sweat. The win would not have been possible without him.
Karim Benzema: 8.5
Cometh the occasion, cometh Karim Benzema. There is no way to keep the French striker out of action, for he always finds ways to be the decisive player for Los Blancos.
With the score tied at 4-4 on aggregate and his team needing a goal in extra time to advance, Benzema found the back of the net. In addition to his goal, he had three key passes and even hit the woodwork once.
Vinicius Jr: 8
The Brazilian international was a thorn in the Chelsea defenders’ feet throughout the 115 minutes he spent on the pitch. In the end, he was rewarded with the assist for the winning goal.
Eduardo Camavinga: 7
The youngster came on for Kroos and kept the team ticking through the game. His performance definitely went under the radar, but his substitution was inarguably game-changing for Ancelotti’s men.
When the team needed a goal to stay alive in the game, Rodrygo came through with the movement and finish of a poacher. While it was Modric’s pass that created the chance for his side, nothing should be taken away from the Brazilian’s finish.
Marcelo played 42 minutes in the game, replacing Ferland Mendy. He did not have a big impact on the result, but did more defensively that one would have expected.
Lucas Vazquez: 7.5
The fullback came on for the final 30 minutes and helped keep the likes of Ziyech and Alonso in check for the final 15 minutes of the game.
Dani Ceballos: NA
Did not play long enough to warrant a rating.
Three talking points ahead of RCD Mallorca vs Real Madrid
Real Madrid have seldom struggled against RCD Mallorca in recent years. The men in white have scored a whopping 15 goals in their last four games against the Palma-based side and their last loss versus them came back in 2019.
If this season’s numbers are anything to go by, however, it would be wrong to overlook Javier Aguirre’s side. Mallorca have won seven of their nineteen La Liga games so far and sit in tenth place with 25 points.
While they have not scored a lot this campaign, they have conceded the fourth-least goals in the Spanish top flight and have an excellent defensive record.
Real Madrid play Mallorca before Barcelona’s game on Sunday and have a chance to reduce the deficit at the top of the table to two points temporarily if they can win at Son Moix.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Mallorca vs Real Madrid.
1. Tchouameni time again?
Aurelien Tchouameni spent close to a month on the sidelines after hobbling off injured in Real Madrid’s clash against Villarreal last month.
In the defensive midfielder’s absence, Carlo Ancelotti was forced to patch the void with unconventional options including Dani Ceballos, Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos as the pivot.
The Frenchman finally made his awaited comeback to the squad in the team’s game against Valencia midweek. As he was returning from a relatively long time on the sidelines, Ancelotti preferred to have him start on the bench.
Tchouameni eventually entered the field in the 66th minute of the game when Toni Kroos asked to be substituted out for precaution. In his 24 minutes on the field, the youngster was almost flawless with 97% passes completed and 100% accurate long balls.
As Los Blancos gear up to play their second game in three days, the time could be right to re-incorporate the 23-year-old into the starting lineup. After all, Tchouameni has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent players this season and it is glaringly clear that they have missed him in recent weeks.
2. Two more casualties
The men in white produced 90 minutes of high-quality football against Los Che on Thursday and reduced the gap with Barcelona to a mere five points. However, the cost of the win was far more than what the manager would have liked to pay.
In return for the three points, Real Madrid saw Karim Benzema and Eder Militao leave the field with injuries to rub salt into Ancelotti’s fresh wounds.
The captain is expected to miss the next two games at least, leaving his team once again without a central striker. In Benzema’s absence, Ancelotti will have to put on his thinking hat and field a forward line that not only creates threats but also has the cutting edge to convert them.
Militao is also unavailable for Sunday’s game. With the Brazilian centre-back ruled out, Real Madrid will likely field a combination of Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez against Mallorca. After all, David Alaba is also returning fresh from injury and might not be fit to start the game.
3. Can Camavinga convince again?
It is almost criminal that a club of Real Madrid’s stature do not have a natural backup for the left-back position.
Ferland Mendy has been Ancelotti’s most preferred position in the player throughout the season. David Alaba was seen as a possible backup option, and though the Austrian International is capable of playing that role, he does not fancy the left-back position anymore.
When Mendy limped off injured in Real Madrid’s game against Atletico Madrid, Eduardo Camavinga thus emerged as a surprise option to fill his shoes. The youngster started the next two games at left-back and did a reasonable job, even earning praise from the manager.
With Tchouameni back running for the Merengues, the left-back role is the only available vacancy for the French International to claim a starting spot.
With Alaba returning, if Camavinga wishes for continuity as a starter, he must produce another exceptional display on Sunday and stake claim as the left-back until Mendy returns.