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Three factors that pioneered Real Madrid’s triumph over Man City in the Champions League

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Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Real Madrid conquered the ghosts of last year and triumphed over Manchester City in the decisive quarter-final second leg last night at the Etihad Stadium.

Having secured no advantage after the 3-3 draw at Santiago Bernabeu, the Merengues stared at an uphill battle against the English giants last night.

Real Madrid were made to suffer and exhaust every last ounce of energy in their body but finally came out on top after the gargantuan struggle.

Rodrygo, who changed his life after pioneering Real Madrid’s comeback over City two years ago, once again stepped up on the night to gift his side an early lead.

After fighting over an hour of resistance from Los Blancos, the hosts got back into the game with a late equaliser. The draw saw the game progress to extra-time which was no more decisive than the 90 minutes themselves.

It was eventually in the penalty shootout that Real Madrid progressed as they edged past the men in blue by a 4-3 margin.

Madrid Universal brings you a summary of three reasons why Carlo Ancelotti’s side managed to get past the tournament co-favourites.

1. A golden defence

The clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City last night at Etihad can best be described as a tussle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object.

Pep Guardiola’s men playing at home are a force to be reckoned with, and they tested Real Madrid till the very end last night. The single biggest reason why the men in white came out on top was their formidable defensive unit.

Antonio Rudiger well and truly showed why Ancelotti erred by dropping him from the starting lineup one year ago at the same venue. Starting at the Etihad, the German was a bonafide star at the back as he held off wave after wave of Manchester attacks.

In 120 minutes, Rudiger completed four clearances and blocked a staggering five shots for Los Blancos and was helped by a well-worked performance by Nacho Fernandez.

The club captain, whom Ancelotti did not entirely trust for his deficiencies in the air, put up a leader’s display away from home with six clearances, a blocked shot, an interception, a tackle and three duels won.

A very important mention, at this juncture, must go to the goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, who played out of his skin in England. He made a staggering eight saves on the night including six from inside the box. Further, he made two massive saves in the penalty shootout as well.

Manchester City were the better team on the night and played intensely attacking football. If their 33 shots resulted in just one goal, the Real Madrid defence had a critical role to play in the same.

2. Together in the face of adversity

While the first half was quite evenly fought by the two teams, the second half last night was almost one-way traffic. In the second 45 minutes, Los Blancos appeared fatigued by the heavy shift they had put in before the break, conjuring an xG of just 0.02 compared to City’s 1.12.

Real Madrid never give up. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The hosts dominated the play in every respect as they battled hard for an equaliser to Rodrygo’s early strike. In the end, they did find their breakthrough late in the second half.

When Kevin De Bruyne hit the back of the net in the 76th minute, it appeared like the end of the road for Real Madrid. After all, the men in white were struggling to keep up with the hosts, who were bubbling with energy after their equaliser.

The 14 minutes to full-time after City’s equaliser appeared never-ending, but Real Madrid stepped up and defended in unison, as they did throughout the clash. Together in the face of adversity, City simply could not find a way through the Merengues’ lines.

The same story continued into extra-time where Manchester City had the lion’s share of possession and attacks. Collective pressure from across the field, disciplined organisation into lines and their never-ending zeal, however, kept the hosts at bay and helped Real Madrid through.

3. Masters of nerves

Real Madrid did not have the physical stamina of Manchester City, nor the dynamic substitutions or gold mine of attacking chances that the hosts enjoyed last night. What they did have, however, was mental resilience and mastery of controlling nerves.

At no point in the game did the face of any Real Madrid player show anguish or doubt as to whether they would qualify. Fatigue was indeed visible, but never the final outcome.

When Luka Modric missed his penalty and handed the result into the hands of Pep Guardiola’s side, their conviction unbelievably still did not falter.

Unfazed by the scoreline and the nerves Andriy Lunin pulled off two sensational saves to put Real Madrid back in front, while his teammates accurately converted to progress to the next round.

Los Blancos’ dominance in the competition is purely down to their unbeatable mental game. They are indeed never out until the final whistle is blown, and last night was the ultimate test of their mentality. Truly the kings of the competition.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Jr, Federico Valverde and Arda Guler were all on target when Real Madrid demolished Deportivo Alaves by a 5-0 scoreline midweek.

The win at the Santiago Bernabeu took the team to 93 points in La Liga, with the champion status already earned. The target now, however, is to reach the magical number of 99 points.

Tomorrow, Los Blancos step on the field for their penultimate league clash of the season as they lock horns against Villarreal.

Their opponents, currently placed eighth in the league, are fighting for a place in Europe and must win tomorrow at Estadio de La Ceramica if they are to remain in the race.

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

Can Bellingham maintain the steam?

Jude Bellingham’s dip in form towards the end of the season raised many concerns in the Real Madrid offices over his fitness and physical state. A mini ‘pre-season’ was said to be in the manager’s plan, especially keeping Bellingham’s recovery in mind.

The young midfielder, however, started the team’s game against Deportivo Alaves once more despite rumours of him being rested and dished out a classic on the night. His performance, in many senses, was one that announced his return to form.

In 90 minutes against Alaves, Bellingham scored one goal and provided two assists as the game ended 5-0 in Real Madrid’s favour.

Furthermore, the former Borussia Dortmund star recorded a staggering 121 touches, 99 passes, six key passes and created one big chance. He also completed four dribbles on the night and participated in eight defensive actions.

It thus becomes a serious question ahead of tomorrow’s clash as to how Carlo Ancelotti plans on managing Bellingham’s minutes.

The obvious approach would be to field the youngster from the start and reward his improved performance at the weekend. Concurrently, however, there is concern over the midfielder being overused which inhibits the manager from such a move.

Will Bellingham start against Villarreal or will the likes of Brahim Diaz or Arda Guler get a deserved start? Only time will tell.

Lunin’s heroic exit

Thibaut Courtois’ injury before the commencement of the new season left Real Madrid with a crisis in goal. The repercussions of the blow, however, were not as dire as expected courtesy of Andriy Lunin’s exceptional performances.

Lunin could play his final game of the season vs Villarreal. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Despite starting the campaign behind Kepa Arrizabalaga on the pecking order, the Ukrainian international has done enough to become the team’s primary goalkeeper across all competitions.

Only Courtois’ return last month displaced him from the starting lineup as the manager prioritised bringing the Belgian superstar back to full fitness.

Real Madrid now plan on starting Courtois for the big UCL final at Wembley next month.

While unfair on Lunin who deserves the start, one cannot blame Ancelotti for relying on the player who single-handedly kept the team in the game the last time they featured in a European final.

With Courtois set to start against Real Betis and Borrusia Dortmund, tomorrow could well be Lunin’s final game of the season for Real Madrid and the 25-year-old will look to depart with a bang.

Momentum is paramount

Real Madrid have already been crowned the champions of La Liga, and every game that remains in the competition at this point only serves as a practice encounter for the big challenge that lies ahead.

Los Blancos take on Borussia Dortmund in the finale of the UCL early next month, and only two games remain before the season-defining encounter. A lot, needless to say, will depend on how Ancelotti manages his squad for the two matches that lie ahead.

Considering that the calendar is no longer as hectic as it was a month ago, the manager could well field his best XI against Villarreal aiming to keep the momentum going for his side. After all, it is paramount at this stage in the season.

At the same time, however, the manager must rotate his squad ahead to give fringe players some deserved minutes and balance the playing time of regular starters.

Los Blancos, at this point, are unbeaten in 23 games across all competitions and have the momentum fairly on their side. Maintaining it with a positive result tomorrow irrespective of the final decision on the extent of rotations will thus be crucial for the Merengues.

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