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Three questions and three answers from Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester City

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Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid could only muster a 3-3 draw against Manchester City on Tuesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu. The game saw the two sides engage in a hard-fought contest, and Los Blancos were forced to dig deep into their resources to conjure the draw.

The result leaves the quarterfinal tie wide open, with everything to fight for in England next week. Unfortunately, Real Madrid do not have fond memories of the venue, winning just once in their last six games there.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side dished out a mixed, yet resilient performance last night. An own goal from Ruben Dias and strikes from Rodrygo and Fede Valverde salvaged a draw, but there were members of the team who were not as convincing.

Madrid Universal brings you three questions and three answers from Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester City.

Three answers

Who would start in central defence?

Carlo Ancelotti’s single biggest dilemma ahead of last night’s clash was over his personnel at centre-back. Spoilt for a choice between Nacho Fernandez and Aurelien Tchouameni in central defence, he opted to deploy the latter for his prowess in the air.

While it is difficult to claim if the decision worked in Los Blancos’ favour or not, the Frenchman’s early booking did not earn him any favours as he was forced to tread the path of caution for 90 minutes. He is also suspended for the second leg now.

During his display last night, he made one clearance, blocked two shots and conjured one interception. Despite being preferred as a starter for his aerial ability, however, he did not win a single aerial duel on the night.

Tchouameni will miss the second leg vs Man City. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Which team would dominate the proceedings?

Given two of Europe’s strongest forces were clashing at the Santiago Bernabeu, it was always going to be a subject of interest to see which side came out with the upper hand.

Having the home advantage, Real Madrid were expected to dominate the proceedings for the greater part of the game and they did not disappoint.

Despite not boasting of the possession much, they were the side with the initiative throughout the first half of the game and recorded more big chances, shots on target and counterattacks.

The second half, however, was a story of its own. Pep Guardiola’s men took over control of the game after half-time and controlled the proceedings against a visibly exhausted Real Madrid.

City’s press did not slow down after the break and their dominance in the middle of the park was uncontested. It was in this period that they scored two phenomenal goals to grow back into the game.

Los Blancos only got an entry back into the proceedings after Ancelotti’s substitutions, which were quite late on the night.

Could Bellingham step up?

A lot was said about Jude Bellingham ahead of the clash against Manchester City. After all, he was going to be locking horns with a side from his country with several of his compatriots in its ranks.

If last night was a chance for him to prove his superiority over his compatriots, however, it is safe to say that he failed.

Not at his best. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Bellingham was far from his best on the night, often struggling with the buildup and giving away sloppy passes straight to the feet of the opposition.

The youngster did indeed make some useful contributions in attack including three successful dribbles and eight duels won, but he lost possession a staggering nine times and completed just over 85% of his passes.

Three questions

Is a draw good enough?

The single biggest question heading into the second leg is whether Real Madrid have done enough to stay alive in the tie. After all, the next instalment will be played at Etihad with Guardiola’s men enjoying the favour of the crowd.

Last season as well, Real Madrid salvaged just a draw from the first leg at the Bernabeu before proceeding to get destroyed in England.

At this point, it is critical to note that Ancelotti’s men dominated the play for large parts of the game last night and were not inferior to the defending champions in any way.

Thus, they cannot be written off for the second leg. A draw is not the worst result they could have conjured last night, but is definitely far from the ideal outcome they would have hoped for.

A silver lining, if any, is that the team know that the game at Etihad is now a must-win, and they will thus not risk any complacency.

How important will the suspension prove?

It took just over 30 seconds after kickoff for Aurelien Tchouameni to see yellow. Already on the list of players risking suspension, he thus guaranteed his unavailability for the second leg in Manchester.

Eder Militao to start in the second leg? (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

His suspension, needless to say, is a matter of concern for the management. He may be replaceable on the field in terms of position, but his mere presence on the field provides a different level of fortification at the back.

Los Blancos are unbeaten this season when Tchouameni starts, a statistic that goes on to show how vital the Frenchman is. Further, the only two games the team have lost this season happen to be the two nights Tchouameni was unavailable.

Looking towards the second leg, Eduardo Camavinga will thus continue in defensive midfield. In central defence, Ancelotti will face a dilemma over the recently-fit Eder Militao or Nacho Fernandez.

What should Ancelotti change for the second leg?

Heading to the Etihad under must-win circumstances against a well-oiled opposition will certainly not be easy.

After all, one must remember that the game last night was a Manchester City without their most important player – Kevin De Bruyne – who will be back next week.

It is thus critical that Ancelotti & co. devise a clear plan to take down the English giants on the night, beginning with immaculate man-marking so as to keep the hosts caged.

The most important aspect of the game that must change, however, is the physical preparation. If Real Madrid cannot keep up steam with the men in blue for 90 minutes, the game will move into complicated territory.

The right rotations this weekend and appropriate physical training, thus, will go a long way.

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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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