Real Madrid could not have asked for a smoother start to their campaign. Despite a relatively rocky first game against Almeria, Los Blancos have come back strong to dominate their next three fixtures.
They currently top the La Liga table with a perfect score of 12 points after four games. Moreover, they have already lifted their first silverware of the season in the form of the UEFA Super Cup.
Carlo Ancelotti could not ask for a better time to kick off the UEFA Champions League campaign. The men in white are in high spirits and will look to keep their good run going on Tuesday night when they take on Celtic in their first Group F encounter.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the game in Glasgow on Tuesday night.
1. Unlocking a new objective
Not many people gave Real Madrid a chance to go all the way in Europe last season. The men in white were thought to be in a period of transition, and the pre-season expectations were not as high.
As the year progressed, it became increasingly clear that Los Blancos were in no way inferior to their European competitors. One by one, they knocked out the best sides in Europe just with their never-say-never mentality.
Chelsea, PSG and Manchester City were all in better positions against Carlo Ancelotti’s side at different stages of their face-off. However, Real Madrid found a way to pull off a comeback.
Now, they enter the new edition of the Champions League as the defending champions. With that status comes the pressure of being favourites, and it remains to be seen if the team can continue their high-level performance without the underdog tag.
Los Blancos are in Group F alongside RB Leipzig, Celtic and Shakhtar Donetsk. The group is not the toughest and the Spanish champions are expected to finish on top comfortably.
Real Madrid’s title defence begins in Glasgow on Tuesday night, and they will look to put a strong first step into the competition. Yet, the manager cannot afford to underestimate his opposition on the night.
2. An opposition in-form
The defending Scottish champions are no lucky candidates in the Champions League. Celtic are one of five clubs in the world to have won over 100 trophies in their history, including a whopping 52 domestic league titles. They are no strangers to European success too, winning the UCL in 1967.
If one were to peek into Ange Postecoglou’s side’s recent form, the sight would be terrifying. The Scottish giants have not dropped points in their last eight games across all competitions. The last time they faced a loss was in mid-April and the streak has been running for 18 games.
One can argue that the Scottish League does not offer the same level as other top European Leagues, but the statistics are an indication of the winning mentality of the team. Real Madrid are no strangers to upsets in the group stages of the UCL and will have to be wary of Celtic’s threat.
Liel Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi have been in excellent form for the Hoops, scoring six goals each this season. The former has found the back of the net every 46 minutes. In midfield, Matt O’Riley has been a machine and has five assists to his name.
The Scottish Champions have scored a ridiculous 17 goals in their last three games and 24 in their last five. It goes without saying that Ancelotti cannot take the tie at Celtic Park for granted.
3. To rotate or not to rotate
Given that the team played against Real Betis less than 72 hours ago, the manager will be tempted to shuffle his cards. However, the question remains – to what extent?
Antonio Rudiger was benched for the game at the weekend and has good chances to start on Tuesday. He could slot into a centre-back pairing with Eder Militao with David Alaba featuring at left-back.
In midfield, Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos are expected to retain their starting positions. However, Luka Modric may be given a deserved rest with Eduardo Camavinga coming in his place.
The dynamics in the attack are not expected to change drastically. Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are integral parts of the team and will not be benched under any circumstance. The third place in attack could be given to Rodrygo once again, especially after his game-changing performance against Los Verdiblancos.
The key to success lies in striking the right balance between youth and experience. As the schedule begins to get tight, the onus is now on Ancelotti to play his cards wisely.
Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings
Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.
Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.
Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.
Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.
Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.
Andriy Lunin: 8
Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.
Lucas Vazquez: 7
Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5
Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.
Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.
Ferland Mendy: 7
A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.
Federico Valverde: 8
By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5
Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.
Toni Kroos: 7
With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.
Brahim Diaz: 7.5
Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.
Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.
Vinicius Jr: 7.5
With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.
Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.
Luka Modric: 8.5
Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.