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Three talking points ahead of Chelsea vs Real Madrid

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Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

90 minutes is all that stands between Real Madrid and a place in the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League for the second successive year. The men in white are often called the kings of the competition, and it does not require much to see why it is indeed so.

The Merengues have a phenomenal record in knockout competitions, and recent years have only taken up the level. After their incredible run in Europe last season, Real Madrid are looking to defend their title this time around and have already proven to still have the X-factor in the format.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side secured a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the quarterfinal first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu last week and will be gunning to emerge victorious at Stamford Bridge later tonight in the second leg.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Chelsea vs Real Madrid in the quarterfinal of the UEFA Champions League.

1. A job half done

A two-goal lead at kickoff awaits Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. After all, Carlo Ancelotti’s men were forced to work hard last week for their advantage and earned it with an all-round performance.

Despite getting the better of the English opposition with dominance, however, the Merengues will be forced to do it all again on Tuesday. After all, it is the norm of the UEFA Champions League to give both participating teams the home advantage to avoid any bias.

The two-goal cushion on the night is massive for Los Blancos and poses a stern challenge ahead of Chelsea who now not only have to win but do so by a margin of at least two goals to qualify.

It is safe to say that Ancelotti’s men have one foot in the semifinals of the prestigious competitions. Yet, they need to keep their feet on the ground and not get ahead of themselves until the job is done.

Real Madrid will thus look to turn a new leaf on Tuesday and approach the game as if it were a fresh tie to negate the psychological cushion a lead brings with it. After all, the stakes have never been higher in a knockout game for the men in white this season.

2. Timely returns

Vinicius and Kroos are back. (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Vinicius Jr and Toni Kroos both played a major role in last week’s 2-0 win over Frank Lampard’s side. However, there was concerning news immediately after the final whistle as it emerged that both had suffered minor overloads.

The German and the Brazilian thus missed Los Blancos’ weekend clash against Cadiz. But, as confirmed by Carlo Ancelotti both players are fit to make the trip to London in what comes as a big boost ahead of a critical encounter.

Vinicius was the man of the match when the two teams met last week at the Santiago Bernabeu and completed the game with two assists to his name. He will likely once again start as the left-winger on the night and look to haunt Reece James once more.

Kroos, meanwhile, could start either deeper in midfield as the pivot or higher up as an interior if Eduardo Camavinga is given the responsibility in defensive midfield. The manager will likely stick to the same midfield formula as last time, however, implying a pivot role for the German.

3. Asensio making a case for himself

Ahead of the first leg of the UCL quarterfinal last week, two names were best placed to start on the right wing and complete the forward line alongside Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema- Rodrygo Goes and Federico Valverde.

Both players eventually started at Santiago Bernabeu. However, it was the Brazilian who featured as the winger with Valverde being deployed as a midfielder alongside Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

On Tuesday, however, Ancelotti will have an additional option of his liking to choose from– Marco Asensio.

The Spaniard came off the bench in Real Madrid’s clash against the London-based side last week and scored a goal within three minutes of coming on the field. He further pushed his case at the weekend when the manager gave him the start and he scored the team’s second goal late in the game.

With two goals in as many clashes, Asensio might well be Ancelotti’s best bet on the right wing. The only question that ponders, however, is whether the Italian tactician will change the working system to accommodate the Spaniard or stick with his firing guns.

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Three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The big Champions League nights seldom disappoint, and the first-leg quarterfinal results last week in this year’s edition were no different.

The four games cumulatively saw 18 goals scored, none of which were overwhelmingly convincing, thus leaving the ground level ahead of the decisive second legs.

Of the four fixtures that unfolded last week, the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City was the most entertaining, by far.

An enthralling 3-3 draw saw both Los Blancos and Pep Guardiola’s men pull off mini-comebacks on the night before they eventually split the spoils and left everything to be decided at the Etihad Stadium.

Tomorrow, the two European giants face off again in Manchester in a game that will grant the victor a spot in the semifinal of this season’s Champions League.

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

New year, new team

As Real Madrid head to the Etihad to take part in the decisive second leg, they invariably confront some horrific memories at the arena.

For starters, the men in white have never beaten Manchester City at the Etihad in an official game. Of the teams’ last three meetings at the venue over the past four years, City have always come out on top at home.

Los Blancos’ most recent recollection of the venue does not help in any way either. After all, they headed to England last season after a draw in the first leg at home, only to be destroyed by a 4-0 margin by Pep Guardiola’s men.

Fast forward one year, the Spanish giants once again failed to secure an advantage in the home fixture. To qualify for the semifinal, they must not only conquer the Etihad’s curse but also get past the ghosts of last year.

A lot has changed in Carlo Ancelotti’s setup since the two sides last met. Karim Benema’s departure, Jude Bellingham’s arrival, and the rise of new stars in goal and defence are just some of the innumerable variations that have grown into the Madrid-based entity.

Ancelotti’s primary goal tomorrow, thus, should be to keep the morale and belief of his men high. It is a new year, a new team, and history plays no part in how the game plays out.

The defensive situation

Rudiger and Nacho likely to start in defence. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ancelotti was faced with a defensive dilemma ahead of Real Madrid’s first leg last week. Of the available options, he opted to go with Aurelien Tchouameni to partner Antonio Rudiger, purely because of the Frenchman’s prowess in aerial duels.

While Tchouameni did do a good job, he is suspended for tomorrow’s clash leaving the Italian coach in a tricky situation in defence.

His Plan B, Eder Militao, is not fit enough to start, and everything indicates that Nacho will be the player to start alongside the German.

Tomorrow’s game at Etihad will be a personal battle for Rudiger, for he was dropped the last time Real Madrid played at the venue and watched his team’s destruction from the sidelines.

Now arriving as the leader of defence, he will make it his objective to prove that Ancelotti’s decision to drop him a year ago was costly. After all, he has efficiently defended against Erling Haaland in all his meetings with the Norwegian.

An equal share of the spotlight will shine on Nacho, whose aerial ability will be tested, and Ferland Mendy, who suffered against Bernardo Silva a week ago.

Clarity in approach

Real Madrid differ from other top European clubs in one primary respect. Unlike the goal of competitors to play a beautiful game, dominate the proceedings and assert authority, Los Blancos purely concern themselves with the result.

Be it ugly or an exquisitely crafted display, the win and qualification are all that Ancelotti aims for. The aforementioned approach has largely pioneered the team’s success over the years.

Heading into tomorrow’s clash, it is thus imperative that Real Madrid have the right idea of what to expect.

It will be close to impossible to dominate proceedings against a well-oiled Pep Guardiola team, nor will it be simple to boast of possession. As such, the Merengues will likely be forced to defend deep for large parts of the game.

What will be critical, however, are the few chances they get on the counter-attack. The likes of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo Goes, Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde will be crucial if the team is to hit on the break with efficiency, and their form will account for a large part of the result.

The goal tomorrow, thus, must not be to dominate the game but purely to walk out victors. It might not turn out to be beautiful, but will surely be memorable should it work out.

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