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 Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.