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 Real Madrid vs Las Palmas | La Liga
The heartbreak at Civitas Metropolitano saw Real Madrid drop down to third on the La Liga standings for the first time this season. They now sit on 15 points from six games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona.
Yet, there is barely time for the team to recover. Less than 72 hours after their defeat, the Merengues play host to Las Palmas in the seventh Matchday of La Liga in a tricky fixture.
Garcia Pimienta’s side have improved leaps and bounds in recent times, although their start to the new season has been far from positive.
Las Palmas were winless in their first five league games but picked up a first win in their most recent outing against Granada.
With the visitors coming off their first win and the hosts their first loss, it will be interesting to see how the game of momentum plays out.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu.
The important reaction
Having secured six wins in six games under their belt, the threat of breaking the moment was always lurking around the corner from Real Madrid. After all, their wins to that point were not always convincing.
Jude Bellingham’s magic, Joselu’s constant threat and the talented midfield helped Los Blancos on their way to scrappy wins over the weeks. Yet, it was always glaringly clear that they had deficiencies in defence and the final third.
All of Real Madrid’s troubles came to the forefront on Sunday and were left glaringly exposed. The end result was a defeat that left a bitter taste in the mouths of players and fans.
Despite facing their first setback of the season, however, the men in white have no time to lament. After all, the hectic schedule leaves them little time between games.
It is thus of utmost importance that Real Madrid does not slip into a vicious state of negative momentum. As they face off against Las Palmas midweek, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needs a strong and dominant win to keep spirits high.
Considering that they will be back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid will be the favourites by far on the night. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on the players to take all three points.
Limelight on the manager
The aftermath of the defeat to Atletico Madrid sent ripples through the Spanish media. It was reported that the Real Madrid board was not entirely happy with the list of ‘sins’ committed by Ancelotti in the clash at Civitas Metropolitano.
It thus goes without saying that the limelight will be on the manager on Wednesday.
For starters, the Italian gaffer must get the starting lineup right and not go overboard with his rotations. Aurelien Tchouameni is a must for the Merengues’ defensive efforts and must be introduced back into the lineup midweek.
Moreover, there will be pressure on him to revert to the winning 4-4-2 diamond formation featuring two natural forwards including a striker.
With Joselu returning to the lineup, Jude Bellingham must shift back to his more comfortable attacking midfield role.
Moreover, the manager must strike the right balance between youth and experience, for both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can no longer start together.
Perhaps the most important job Ancelotti is faced with, however, is in defence. Both David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger appeared lost in the last game, and it remains to be seen if the manager ropes Nacho Fernandez in to strike a better dynamic.
Return of the magician
While Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are amongst Real Madrid’s most valuable players, it is Vinicius Jr’s injury that hit the club the hardest.
The Merengues unfortunately have a very thin and fragile forward line this season with just three players competing for two spots. Of the three names, Vinicius is the single most important one.
The Brazilian star may not have started the 2023-24 season at his optimal level considering his altered role in the new formation. Yet, he is the Merengues’ most lethal weapon to break open defences and create chances.
The men in white have had problems since the Selecao star hobbled off the field injured against Celta Vigo.
Their games against Getafe and Union Berlin were both down to last-gasp winners, while the defeat to Atletico Madrid showed everything wrong with the team.
Vinicius Jr is set to make his return in tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be no better news for Ancelotti.