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Real Madrid 5-1 Celtic: Player ratings

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Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Real Madrid just needed a win on Wednesday night to guarantee themselves the top spot in Group F of the UEFA Champions League. Yet, they orchestrated the complete demolition of Celtic at Santiago Bernabeu to jump atop the standings.

The first half was nervy, with the visitors not too far behind Carlo Ancelotti’s men in terms of quality. However, Real Madrid turned up the heat in the second half and showed why they were the defending European Champions.

Federico Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinicius, Marco Asensio and Luka Modric all got a slice of the cake with goals on the night. Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings from Real Madrid’s humbling at the Bernabeu.

Thibaut Courtois: 9

The Belgian had a sublime first-half performance with the highlight of his display being a penalty save. Made two more saves from inside the box in the opening period to maintain his team’s lead. Recorded a further three saves in the second period and even got his glove to the goal eventually conceded.

Daniel Carvajal: 7

Solid in defence with four defensive actions, also created two chances and took one shot on goal. Made was for Lucas Vazquez in the second half.

Eder Militao: 8

Did exceedingly well to keep Reo Hatate’s shot out six minutes past the hour mark. Made five clearances, two recoveries and one headed clearance on the night. Further, he won 100% of his ground duels and an aerial duel. The best defender on the field by far.

David Alaba: 7

Not a particularly flashy display for the Austrian International but did the dirty work to keep his side in the running for a clean sheet as long as he was on the field. Made six defensive actions in his 66 minutes before he made way for Nacho.

Ferland Mendy: 6.5

The Frenchman was once again silent in attack but reliable in defence. Was responsible for the one black mark on the team’s performance – the penalty conceded in the first half courtesy of sloppy defending to take down Abada.

Federico Valverde: 9

It was the Uruguayan’s powerful strike in the fifth minute that won Real Madrid the first penalty after striking Jenz’s arm. Constantly tested Joe Hart from distance, and created two chances in just the first 45 minutes.

Can claim full credit for Real Madrid’s fourth goal as he created the chance out of nothing with his powerful cross to Vinicius. Got the cherry on the cake with an unstoppable shot from outside the box to make it five on the night.

Toni Kroos: 7

Crossed 100 passes, as is the norm for the German midfielder. Silent but instrumental in possession, worked hard off of it.

Luka Modric: 7.5

Stepped up to take Los Blancos‘ first penalty in the fifth minute and calmly buried it into the bottom corner to give them the lead. Controlled the midfield and broke Celtic’s defence with ease time and time again. Was critical in the buildup that resulted in the second spot-kick too. Came off for Dani Ceballos in the 66th minute.

Marco Asensio: 9.5

A world-class display from the Spaniard who was involved in almost every attack for the men in white. Was involved in the buildup to both penalties, bamboozling the visitors’ defence with his cheeky passes.

Scored a banger in the 51st minute as he smashed the ball past Joe Hart to make it 3-0. Also got the pre-assist for the team’s fourth goal before directly assisting Valverde for the fifth.

Rodrygo Goes: 8.5

The youngster was instrumental in winning the second penalty on the night as his shot struck O’Riley’s arm in an unnatural position in the box. Stepped up and calmly dispatched the ball to double his team’s lead. Created a massive chance for Vinicius in the 22nd minute with a lovely bit of solo play but saw the chance go begging.

Vinicius Jr: 8

The Brazilian was active in front of the goal in the first half but just could not find the back of the net. Missed one of the easiest chances of the game from Rodrygo’s phenomenal cross when he failed to bury the ball into an open net.

Eventually found the back of the net in the 61st minute when he got onto the end of Fede Valverde’s powerful cross across the face of the goal. Made way for Karim Benzema in the 64th minute.

SUBSTITUTES:

Karim Benzema: 6

Involved heavily in the buildup but failed to create any clear threat in front of the goal. Clearly missing match fitness.

Lucas Vasquez: 7

Conceded the set piece that resulted in Celtic’s only goal of the night. Nevertheless, a good all-round display with four defensive actions and one chance created in less than 30 minutes.

Dani Ceballos: 6.5

Did well to cover for Luka Modric, and created one big chance.

Nacho: 5

Poor effort in defending Celtic’s freekick. No contribution worth mentioning during his cameo.

Jesus Vallejo: 6.5

A good and short cameo for the Spaniard. Calm defensively made four interventions in just 17 minutes.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The big Champions League nights seldom disappoint, and the first-leg quarterfinal results last week in this year’s edition were no different.

The four games cumulatively saw 18 goals scored, none of which were overwhelmingly convincing, thus leaving the ground level ahead of the decisive second legs.

Of the four fixtures that unfolded last week, the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City was the most entertaining, by far.

An enthralling 3-3 draw saw both Los Blancos and Pep Guardiola’s men pull off mini-comebacks on the night before they eventually split the spoils and left everything to be decided at the Etihad Stadium.

Tomorrow, the two European giants face off again in Manchester in a game that will grant the victor a spot in the semifinal of this season’s Champions League.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid.

New year, new team

As Real Madrid head to the Etihad to take part in the decisive second leg, they invariably confront some horrific memories at the arena.

For starters, the men in white have never beaten Manchester City at the Etihad in an official game. Of the teams’ last three meetings at the venue over the past four years, City have always come out on top at home.

Los Blancos’ most recent recollection of the venue does not help in any way either. After all, they headed to England last season after a draw in the first leg at home, only to be destroyed by a 4-0 margin by Pep Guardiola’s men.

Fast forward one year, the Spanish giants once again failed to secure an advantage in the home fixture. To qualify for the semifinal, they must not only conquer the Etihad’s curse but also get past the ghosts of last year.

A lot has changed in Carlo Ancelotti’s setup since the two sides last met. Karim Benema’s departure, Jude Bellingham’s arrival, and the rise of new stars in goal and defence are just some of the innumerable variations that have grown into the Madrid-based entity.

Ancelotti’s primary goal tomorrow, thus, should be to keep the morale and belief of his men high. It is a new year, a new team, and history plays no part in how the game plays out.

The defensive situation

Rudiger and Nacho likely to start in defence. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ancelotti was faced with a defensive dilemma ahead of Real Madrid’s first leg last week. Of the available options, he opted to go with Aurelien Tchouameni to partner Antonio Rudiger, purely because of the Frenchman’s prowess in aerial duels.

While Tchouameni did do a good job, he is suspended for tomorrow’s clash leaving the Italian coach in a tricky situation in defence.

His Plan B, Eder Militao, is not fit enough to start, and everything indicates that Nacho will be the player to start alongside the German.

Tomorrow’s game at Etihad will be a personal battle for Rudiger, for he was dropped the last time Real Madrid played at the venue and watched his team’s destruction from the sidelines.

Now arriving as the leader of defence, he will make it his objective to prove that Ancelotti’s decision to drop him a year ago was costly. After all, he has efficiently defended against Erling Haaland in all his meetings with the Norwegian.

An equal share of the spotlight will shine on Nacho, whose aerial ability will be tested, and Ferland Mendy, who suffered against Bernardo Silva a week ago.

Clarity in approach

Real Madrid differ from other top European clubs in one primary respect. Unlike the goal of competitors to play a beautiful game, dominate the proceedings and assert authority, Los Blancos purely concern themselves with the result.

Be it ugly or an exquisitely crafted display, the win and qualification are all that Ancelotti aims for. The aforementioned approach has largely pioneered the team’s success over the years.

Heading into tomorrow’s clash, it is thus imperative that Real Madrid have the right idea of what to expect.

It will be close to impossible to dominate proceedings against a well-oiled Pep Guardiola team, nor will it be simple to boast of possession. As such, the Merengues will likely be forced to defend deep for large parts of the game.

What will be critical, however, are the few chances they get on the counter-attack. The likes of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo Goes, Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde will be crucial if the team is to hit on the break with efficiency, and their form will account for a large part of the result.

The goal tomorrow, thus, must not be to dominate the game but purely to walk out victors. It might not turn out to be beautiful, but will surely be memorable should it work out.

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