Real Madrid’s win over Napoli on Wednesday night took the team to a perfect tally of five wins from five group stage games in the UEFA Champions League this season.
The game was not easy by any means, especially with Los Blancos’ defence falling apart at times. Yet, they held their nerve to score two late goals and take home all three points.
Rodrygo Goes carried forward his great run of form into the clash against the reigning Serie A champions, scoring Real Madrid’s opener on the night. Speaking to the media after the game, he expressed his elation at the result and performance.
“I am very happy for the team and on a personal level for scoring again. Qualified and first, a nice night.”
“It means a lot to be first in the group. We have more peace of mind for the rest of the season. Real Madrid must always be the first,” he added on the team’s guaranteed table-top finish.
Further commenting on Real Madrid’s great run of results, Rodrygo insisted that the team was at the peak of its powers.
“We are all playing well. We are scoring a lot of goals and defending well as well. I think we are at our best.”
Carlo Ancelotti substituted out the in-form youngster late in the game, sparking worries of an injury. The youngster confirmed that his blow was nothing serious, saying: “I was a little tired in the second part and then I had a little cramp, but I’m fine.”
Finally, Rodrygo showered praise on his teammate Jude Bellingham for his continued success and high-quality performances.
“I don’t have any words. You watch the games, he’s getting better every day. The truth is that it’s a pleasure to play with him.”
Nico Paz elated after first senior goal
Real Madrid’s young goalscorer Nico Paz was the next to talk to the media, and he was understandably over the mood with his display and goal on the night.
“I am very happy, this is a dream. For a moment I didn’t even believe it. Very happy to be able to help the team. I dared. I was in automatic mode, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I hit it and well, freaking out, to be honest.”
He went on to thank the entire support system in the dressing room for pushing him towards the special moment, saying,
“My teammates are even happier than I am. I want to thank you for your support. We have one of the best academies, if not the best. We are here to help.”
Finally, Paz took the chance to urge other academy players to push for a spot in the first team and did away with the belief that it was challenging.
“This is also a message for the other youth players: it is possible to get there. Ancelotti congratulated me, the whole staff. They are an incredible group and I want to thank them all.”
Source: Real Madrid website
Ancelotti considering playing a makeshift centre-back pairing for Real Madrid against Valencia – report
Real Madrid will take on Valencia on Saturday, looking to maintain their solid lead at the top of the league table.
The Spanish giants are leading the standing with a six-point lead over Girona. A win against Valencia could help them solidify their position at the top while potentially opening up an opportunity to extend the lead to more than six points.
Heading into this game, though, Carlo Ancelotti is facing multiple setbacks, especially in the defensive unit, with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Thibaut Courtois still missing due to injuries.
This will once again put pressure on Ancelotti, as far as the team selection is concerned.
Rudiger & Tchouameni to partner at centre-back vs Valencia
Fortunately for the Real Madrid coach, much of his experimentations this season have worked, including Aurelien Tchouameni’s supreme performances at centre-back.
With that in mind, Diario AS reports Ancelotti is considering playing a makeshift central defensive pair against Valencia, comprising Antonio Rudiger and Tchouameni.
This is not the first time the young Frenchman will have to accompany Rudiger at centre-back. He did so earlier in the year when Real Madrid took on RCD Mallorca.
Interestingly, Real Madrid were able to retain a clean sheet, with Rudiger scoring the winning goal, in a narrow 1-0 victory.
What are Ancelotti’s other options?
Ancelotti will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around. However, it must be noted that the Italian will be boosted by the return of Dani Carvajal from suspension.
The veteran Spaniard can be an option at centre-back. But given the way how Tchouameni has impressed onlookers with his performances at centre-back, there is very little reason why he shouldn’t continue in the position.
Tchouameni has even been compared to Javier Mascherano by former Spanish coach Roberto Moreno.
Other than Carvajal, though, Nacho Fernandez is another option for Ancelotti. But the veteran defender is suffering with discomfort and Ancelotti has no plans to risk it.