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Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Valverde out despite Uruguay win, Rodrygo bright in defeat

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Photo by PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP via Getty Images

The group stage of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar came to an end on Friday and could go down as one of the best and most dramatic group stages in the history of the competition.

The early kickoff saw Portugal face off against South Korea in a clash that seemed set to end at parity. At the death, the Asians scored a clutch goal to set up a nail-biting finish in the group.

The pressure was on Uruguay to score a goal in stoppage time against Ghana in order to qualify. Eventually, the South American side were eliminated and South Korea qualified in second place.

Later in the night, Brazil fell to a shocking 1-0 loss to Cameroon while Serbia and Switzerland played out a thrilling contest that ended 3-2 in favour of the latter. Brazil finished on top of the group, with the Swiss men qualifying in second place on goal difference.

Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performances of Real Madrid players on the night.

Federico Valverde (Uruguay vs Ghana)

The Uruguayan national team was subpar in its first two outings in the tournament but came out all guns blazing when they needed a win against Ghana. Once again, it was Federico Valverde who dictated the game for the South American side.

The Real Madrid midfielder had 93 touches in the match and completed 87% of his attempted passes. He was key in the team’s buildup play with five accurate long balls, and one key pass while completing all his attempted crosses. Further, he recorded three shots, including one on target. 

He made some crucial defensive interventions too, including eight defensive actions. However, a late goal by South Korea changed the situation in the dying minutes. Uruguay, who seemed to be through were suddenly eliminated, ironically after their best performance.

Rodrygo Goes (Brazil vs Cameroon)

The Real Madrid protege received his first start in the World Cup against Cameroon and while the result may have gone against the tournament favourites, one cannot deny the class Rodrygo oozed.

The youngster was one of the primary sources of all of Cameroon’s worries for close to an hour before he was substituted. He constantly challenged the goalkeeper even from tight angles and even came painfully close to scoring on two occasions.

In 55 minutes, he had one shot blocked and one off-target. He completed 100% of his attempted dribbles and worked hard even when off the ball.

Eder Militao (Brazil vs Cameroon)

Eder Militao saw yellow just seven minutes into the game, and the booking played a massive role in his performance at Lusail Stadium. 

The defender could not play freely with his position in-game at risk and opted to take a safer approach thereafter. He made just one tackle and won three duels. Nevertheless, Militao was very safe in possession and completed a whopping 93% of his passes and four out of six attempted long balls.

Vinicius Jr (Brazil vs Cameroon)

Tite opted to rest his regular starters against Cameroon and threw on several bench players who hoped to impress on their starts. The decision was justified given that the Selecao had already guaranteed their spot on top of their group. Vinicius started on the bench and stayed there, up until the final whistle.

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Benzema, Camavinga start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Liverpool

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Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will look to secure their place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League when they take on Premier League bigwigs Liverpool in the second leg of their Round of 16 encounter tonight.

The Merengues are already in a solid position thanks to their 5-2 comeback victory in the first leg at Anfield, led by brilliant performances from Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema.

But the job is far from done as the Reds are perfectly capable of mounting a strong comeback, having done so in the past against Barcelona only a few years ago. The recent 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United also showed the capabilities of Jurgen Klopp’s men.

So, Carlo Ancelotti & co. will need to be professional and get the job done while guarding against any sort of complacency. The manager has a near-full squad at his disposal, with David Alaba the only player missing with an injury.

With the game set to kick off at the Santiago Bernabeu later tonight, Madrid Universal takes a look at how Los Blancos could line up against Liverpool.

Starters

Thibaut Courtois is a certain starter in goal for Real Madrid and will look to keep a clean sheet this time out after letting in two goals at Anfield in the reverse fixture.

The Belgian international will likely be shielded by the centre-back pairing of Eder Militao, who was in fine nick against Espanyol over the weekend, and Antonio Rudiger.

Dani Carvajal is a guaranteed starter at right-back, while Nacho Fernandez is set to get the nod on the left side after his solid performance after coming on as a substitute at Anfield. Ferland Mendy is back in the squad, but is unlikely to be thrust into the spotlight right away.

Moving into the middle of the park, Carlo Ancelotti has always banked on the experience of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos for the big games, and that will not change tonight against Liverpool at the Bernabeu.

Ancelotti’s trusted lieutenants. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The defensive midfield slot is up for grabs with neither Aurelien Tchouameni nor Eduardo Camavinga impressing against Espanyol. But, Camavinga has been in a much better nick in recent times than his compatriot and should get the nod.

As for the attacking trident, captain Karim Benzema is back in the squad after sitting out against Espanyol with an ankle issue. He is certain to start as the centre-forward while Vinicius Jr is a certainty on the left flank.

On the right, the likes of Rodrygo Goes, Marco Asensio and Federico Valverde are all options for Ancelotti, but it is the latter who is likely to get the nod tonight.

Real Madrid Predicted XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Nacho; Modric, Camavinga, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius.

Substitutes

Rodrygo Goes has often made a big impact coming off the bench, especially in the big games and is certain to get minutes at some stage against Liverpool. Marco Asensio is another player who can provide goals from the bench and can be an asset.

Alternatively, if Carlo Ancelotti is looking to shore things up in midfield, the energy of Dani Ceballos might come in handy while Aurelien Tchouameni would also be in contention.

Youngster Alvaro Rodriguez has been making quite an impression of late and could get some minutes under his belt as well.

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