Real Madrid have, somehow, once again, done the impossible. After trailing against Manchester City courtesy of a goal from Riyad Mahrez in the 73rd minute, a heroic brace from Rodrygo took the clash to extra-time.
Karim Benzema was handed the opportunity to take the lead on the golden platter by Ruben Dias, who made a clumsy challenge. The Frenchman calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.
With Carlo Ancelotti in the Champions League finals once again, we run the rule over their performance from tonight.
Thibaut Courtois: 9.5
Game-winner, game-changer, and inarguably one of the best in his position in the world. Courtois made eight saves, including three absolute worldies, to keep Madrid in the game.
Daniel Carvajal: 7
Was troubled by Foden and Jesus but did well to keep his composure till the final whistle was blown. Unlucky to not walk out with an assist.
Eder Militao: 7
Militao, much like Carvajal, had trouble against Man City’s break, but made some clutch challenges in their defensive third, especially one against Foden in extra time.
Nacho Fernandez: 9
Filling in for David Alaba, Nacho was utterly sensational. He was often the last man defending and was called into action several times against a fresh Raheem Sterling. Did not disappoint.
Ferland Mendy: 7
Not much can be made of Mendy’s performance; he should perhaps have done better to mark Mahrez for the goal, but other than that, he did well to hold the fort on the left.
Way too clumsy in the opening minutes, could have easily been sent off on another day. Was sent to the shops defending against Bernardo Silva too often.
Toni Kroos: 6
Playing as part of a double pivot, Kroos had too many defensive duties to influence the game as he would have liked to.
Federico Valverde: 7.5
Valverde, as one would expect, ran the length of the pitch multiple times over till the final whistle blew. Was instrumental to Madrid’s defensive shape.
Luka Modric: 6.5
Another part of the Madrid midfield that struggled to cope against Bernardo Silva and Rodri. Did well to press every single opposition, though.
Vinicius Jr: 7
Kyle Walker was tremendous against Vinicius, and did not give him an ounce of space. However, once he was subbed off, the Brazilian had a lot of space to carry the ball and did his job well.
Karim Benzema: 8.5
Eventually, the game-winner, as he has been oh-so-often this season, Benzema cannot be faulted for this game. Won the penalty, created a number of chances, and ran the attack.
Rodrygo’s rise to fame as Madrid’s cult hero has been sensational, and we saw much of the same tonight as the Brazilian scored two goals in two minutes after the 90th minute. Super sub, if there ever was one.
Eduardo Camavinga: 10
Inarguably Madrid’s best performer on the night, Camavinga came on to unbelievable impact. He essentially created the equaliser, and was omnipresent defensively. Pretty much ended Bernardo’s rule of the midfield single-handedly.
Marco Asensio: 7
While Asensio’s impact was nowhere close to that of Rodrygo, he got the assist for the header, and has to be credited for the same.
Dani Ceballos: 7
Came on to help see the game out in midfield, and was successful.
Lucas Vazquez: N/A
Came on to help see the game out, did not participate enough to warrant a rating.
Jesus Vallejo: N/A
Replaced the injured Militao, did not participate enough to warrant a rating.
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.