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.
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.
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.
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.