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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig | UEFA Champions League

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

The first Champions League knockout game of the season arrives at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night as Real Madrid take to the field against an inspired RB Leipzig. The first leg in Germany last month ended in a slender advantage for Los Blancos, and the tie is still open for massive twists.

Real Madrid are perennial favourites in the UEFA Champions League. In a term where they have dominated the domestic circuit and only suffered two defeats all season, their stature as favourites grows higher.

A berth in the quarterfinals awaits the victor on Wednesday, and Real Madrid will be desperate to see their name in the final eight. After all, anything short of silverware is seen as a disappointment in Madrid.

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

Keeping cool

Tempers and emotions were running high at the end of Real Madrid’s last game in La Liga after a howler from the referee denied Los Blancos a win.

Indeed, the men in white were far from impressive on the night against Valencia at Mestalla. They began the game poorly and were forced to pull two goals back to level the scores.

Yet, they conjured the required resources and even went all the way to score a winner in the final play of the game. Gil Manzano, the official on the night, however, blew the final whistle while Brahim Diaz’s assist was in the air and thus refused to count the winning goal.

The Real Madrid players were understandably in rage after the incident, for they felt betrayed and victims of a daylight robbery. The mood in the dressing room was not much better, as players were seen fuming even on their way back into the tunnel.

Heading into the next game, it is thus imperative that Carlo Ancelotti’s men keep their cool and let the past slide. Any hint of residual rage or feeling of helplessness could sabotage the plan against RB Leipzig.

It thus remains to be seen if the manager has the dressing room in his grip and how he ensures the team is unaffected by the result at the weekend. The veterans, needless to say, will have a massive role to play in the same.

Lessons from Germany

Real Madrid were lucky winners in the first leg. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Ahead of the first-leg meeting between RB Leipzig and Real Madrid, the Bundesliga side had won just one of their last five games. With three defeats on the trot against Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen and Stuttgart not too long before the UCL clash, many held Los Blancos to be clear favourites.

The game that unfolded at the Red Bull Arena, however, was as fighting as it could get. Ancelotti’s men, in fact, were under pressure for the greater part of the match and were lucky to not concede.

The Germans made easy work of the Merengues’ defence time and time again, forcing Andriy Lunin into a man-of-the-match performance. The Ukrainian made nine saves preventing an xG OF 2.44 on the night including a stunning five saves from inside the box.

It is thus clear that the second leg will be no walkover for Real Madrid despite Leipzig’s poor domestic form. The clash in Madrid tomorrow will be a real test of defensive spirit, while the spotlight will equally shine on the forwards in light of the recent lean patch.

A slender, yet vital lead

All that Real Madrid could muster from the first leg three weeks ago was a one-goal advantage. Truth be told, they were lucky to walk away with any form of an advantage on the night considering the performance Leipzig put up.

The one-goal cushion is a start, but will not suffice if Los Blancos are to progress to the quarterfinals of the competition they desire most. Ancelotti, thus, must not rely on defensive strengths but look to actively push for more goals on the night.

Real Madrid will have the home advantage, and the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu will play an invaluable role in boosting the team’s confidence. It may be premature to call Real Madrid favourites in the game, but a defeat at this stage can only be seen as an underachievement.

Jude Bellingham, who missed the first leg, will be back pulling the strings in the attacking midfield for Los Blancos tomorrow and will have massive responsibility on his shoulders. The Englishman, alongside Vinicius, Rodrygo and possibly Joselu, must look to fight fire with fire and not get on the defensive.

After all, even one goal on the night will significantly improve Real Madrid’s chances of progressing on aggregate.

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Real Madrid 3-2 FC Barcelona – Player Ratings

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Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Still fatigued from their weary 120 minutes midweek against Manchester City, Real Madrid took on Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier today in a fascinating clash.

Unlike the two previous games between the two sides this season, tonight’s Clasico was a very tight affair with both teams having their chances to steal the show. 

Andreas Christensen opened the scoring for Barcelona early in the night, giving the visitors the lead. A clean penalty conversion from Vinicius Jr, however, soon pulled one back for Los Blancos.

Fermin Lopez’s goal gave the Catalans the lead once more in the second period but the advantage was short-lived as Lucas Vazquez cut the deficit once more.

In the end, Jude Bellingham scored an injury-time winner for the men in white and Real Madrid got the result they required. The league title now appears written in their name.

Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings from El Clasico.

Andriy Lunin: 5

A relatively shaky night for the Ukrainian shot-stopper who never really looked confident with his saves. Was very poor in Andreas Christensen’s opener with his decision-making and came very close to conceding to a Lamine Yamal flick in the first half. 

Was directly at fault for the Blaugranas’ second goal of the night as he pushed the ball straight into the path of Fermin Lopez.

Lucas Vazquez: 10

A strong display from the Spanish full-back who once again showed that he is a potent force in the final third. Won the penalty for Real Madrid after some masterful trickery on the flank, setting up the team’s equaliser.

Found a stunning half-volley to stun Barcelona minutes after their second goal, levelling the scores once more. Was vital in the buildup for the team’s winner as well.

Sensational. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5

The French centre-back was presumably chosen for his prowess in the air but was nowhere to be seen when Christensen netted Barcelona’s opener. Was regularly poor in defending against set pieces, especially at the far post.

Antonio Rudiger: 7

The German centre-back led the team’s defensive unit but was also far from his best on the night. Did not make any glaring mistakes, but fatigue is likely to have impacted his influence.

Eduardo Camavinga: 6

The young phenom started the game well and was a lively presence in the final third. However, he soon began to struggle to keep up with Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal who began running havoc down the flank.

Was caught napping for Yamal’s cross that set up Barcelona’s second goal of the night and was dribbled past twice. Replaced by Fran Garcia at the 70-minute mark.

Federico Valverde: 7

Real Madrid’s midfield machine was undoubtedly fatigued on the night, yet came out at the team’s most valuable asset off the ball.

Completed seven defensive actions and 92% of his passes, executing his duties well.

Toni Kroos: 8

Sitting deep in the defensive midfield, Kroos was instrumental in holding the fortress for Real Madrid on the break. Silky smooth as ever with his distribution and creativity, combined with some no-nonsense defending.

Luka Modric: 8

Showing his quality. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

A good showing from the Croatian talisman who controlled the midfield alongside Kroos and Valverde throughout the first half. 

Jude Bellingham: 9

A much-improved performance from the Golden Boy who has been under scrutiny in recent weeks for his dip in form.

Bellingham was vital on the break for Real Madrid, dictating the attacking play of the team. He was immaculate with his passing range and completed 100% of his attempted dribbles.

Of all the Real Madrid players, Bellingham was likely the one who put in the biggest defensive shift when out of possession. Found the back of the net in emphatic fashion in the final minutes of the game to give his side the win.

Vinicius Jr: 8

Another Clasico goal. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Not the Brazilian phenom’s best night on the grasses of the Santiago Bernabeu as he struggled to conjure up much on the counters. Regardless, he scored a vital penalty and even came close to assisting Rodrygo twice in the first half.

Laid the ball on a platter for Lucas Vazquez, setting up the team’s second goal.

Rodrygo Goes: 7

While Rodrygo did not enjoy too much freedom in the final third either, his runs between the lines often created problems for the visitors. Yet, one felt Real Madrid should have capitalised more on the 23-year-old’s presence in the final third.

SUBSTITUTES

Brahim Diaz: 7

Brought life to Real Madrid’s counterattacks after coming on, although he did not really get into the game considering Los Blancos’ defence-heavy strategy.

Fran Garcia: 7

Did relatively well to defend against Yamal, and demonstrated more defensive awareness than Camavinga.

Eder Militao: NA

Came on too late to make a tangible impact.

Joselu: NA

Came on too late to make a tangible impact.

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