With their comeback win over Mallorca at the weekend, Real Madrid are the only team in Europe’s top five leagues to have not dropped a single point this season. Such a record does not come by often, and the team will look to hold on to it for as long as possible.
For that, however, they will have to get the better of RB Leipzig on Wednesday in what promises to be a gruelling game. The Germans are the toughest of the three competitors in Los Blancos’ Champions League group and a win on the night would go a long way in ensuring a top spot finish.
Carlo Ancelotti is expected to go all out with his strongest lineup after resting his midfield stars at the weekend. However, he will also be without the services of Karim Benzema, Eder Militao and Lucas Vazquez.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the defending champions’ midweek fixture.
1. Tchouameni with the Casemiro treatment
If one were to choose one standout player from Real Madrid this season, Aurelien Tchouameni would be one of the top names in the running. The Frenchman has hit the ground running since his move to Spain and in some style.
In less than a month, he has already won over not only Carlo Ancelotti but the entire Real Madrid dressing room. Moreover, he is the only reason why the club are not feeling the void left by Casemiro.
The manager may have several midfield options at his disposal this season, but the Frenchman looks to be the one constant piece in the middle of the park. His treatment reminds one of Casemiro who was an undisputed name in the starting lineup week in and week out throughout his spell in Spain.
The midfielder got a rare day off for Los Blancos’ clash against Mallorca at the weekend and did not even feature off the bench. Fresh from his one-game hiatus, Tchouameni will be ready to start in the Champions League on Wednesday night and in the games to follow.
The youngster’s primary role on the field will undoubtedly be that of a natural pivot. He will have to hold the fort against a talented setup including Dominik Szoboszlai, Christopher Nkunku and Emil Forsberg. Yet, he will also look to provide a creative presence in midfield with his line-breaking passes and dictate the game.
2. First big test of the season
At first sight, RB Leipzig may appear as another stroll in the park for Real Madrid. After all, the Germans are struggling in tenth place in Bundesliga and have only two wins in six league games.
However, that is far from the case. The Germans will pose a massive threat at the Bernabeu and will be the biggest test so far for the hosts.
After Leipzig collapsed to a 4-1 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk last week, the management immediately fired Domenico Tedesco and replaced him with Marco Rose. The new manager did not require long to inspire his team and oversaw a 3-0 drubbing of Borussia Dortmund in his first game in charge.
Rose brings something fresh to Leipzig’s play with his tactical ideas. He is very attack-minded with his ideology and his teams usually play verticality and look to hit oppositions with speedy transitions.
The men in white have been shaky at the back this season and have conceded a goal in every La Liga game so far. Clearly, Real Madrid will have to be wary on Wednesday given their poor defensive record.
3. Can Rodrygo steal the show?
With Karim Benzema out of action for Los Blancos, the spotlight naturally turns to Vinicius Jr. The Brazilian international has been the team’s second most important forward after the French star and is seen as the biggest hope in front of goal.
However, there is another protege in the team who is pushing hard for a starting spot with his consistent performances. Rodrygo Goes may not be the flashiest player on the ball but his composure, ball control and knack for scoring make him a special player for Ancelotti’s side.
The youngster started Real Madrid’s game against Mallorca on Sunday and finished with a goal and an assist. He completed a whopping seven dribbles and made three key passes on the night.
His goal in itself was a thing of beauty. The 21-year-old wandered into the Mallorca box on his own and eliminated three defenders around him before calmly putting the ball into the net. His assist for Vinicius’ goal was no less and once again showed his ridiculous control on the ball.
As Los Blancos head into Wednesday’s game, Rodrygo will be determined to prove that he deserves as much if not more attention than his compatriot. Needless to say, there is no better stage to make a statement to the world than the Champions League.
The manager could look to start him in the role of a false nine against Leipzig, much like Eden Hazard in the last game. It may be a new role for the youngster, but he has the required skill set to excel in it.
If Rodrygo steps up tomorrow, Real Madrid will have no struggles in scoring without Benzema. Undoubtedly, all eyes will be on him at the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid 3-1 Atletico Madrid: Player Ratings
A scintillating Madrid derby saw Real Madrid leap past Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid by a scoreline of 3-1 to book a place in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. As one-sided as the scoreline looks, the game was far from that.
Atletico Madrid took the early lead through Alvaro Morata in the first half and held onto their lead for close to an hour. However, Rodrygo had other plans and equalised for the hosts with a stunning solo strike to force extra time.
Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr then scored in the first and second periods of extra time to give Real Madrid the win. Notably, Los Rojiblancos were down to ten men by that point, with Stefan Savic having been sent off.
Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings for both teams at the Madrid derby.
Thibaut Courtois: 8.5
Absolutely gargantuan. Made a whopping five saves to keep his side in the game throughout, including four from inside the box.
Nacho Fernandez: 7.5
Playing as a right-back, Nacho did a great job at controlling Reinildo and Antoine Griezmann.
Eder Militao: 8
Calm, cool, and composed. 13 recoveries, seven clearances, four headed clearances, one interception and six duels won in addition to a game-high 117 passes.
Antonio Rudiger: 7
Tight performance from the German, was part of Real Madrid’s resilient defence that prevented an Atleti equaliser late on.
Ferland Mendy: 4
One of the Merengues’ worst players in the first half, limited their width in the final third and did not involve in the buildup. Replaced before half-time after suffering an injury.
Luka Modric: 7.5
Played the full 120 minutes and returned to his imperial best after a mild slump in recent games. Had 136 touches, completed 94% of his passes. Led the team with 22 passes into the final third and assisted Rodrygo’s opener.
Eduardo Camavinga: 7
Did well as the pivot against Simeone’s men, and showed the world that he can compete with Aurelien Tchouameni for a spot as the holding midfielder.
Toni Kroos: 7
Reliable as ever in his 74 minutes on the field. Completed 97% of his passes, created two chances and had 11 passes into the final third. Defensively, he recorded six recoveries, a headed clearance, two clearances and won three duels.
Federico Valverde: 6
A relatively sub-par performance from the Uruguayan. Took five shots against Real Madrid, but only one hit the target. Looked slightly off from the get-go but did not make any glaring mistakes either.
Karim Benzema: 8
A lively presence in attack created three chances and took four shots on the night. Had his big moment in the first half of extra time when he found himself at the receiving end of Rodrygo’s ball across the goal. Faced with an open goal, the Frenchman gave his side the lead.
Vinicius Jr: 8.5
Phenomenal, as is the norm. Was a constant threat down the left flank, and created five chances including a big chance. Got the assist to his name on the night, though Rodrygo deservedly can claim to have been the one to spot Benzema’s good position.
Scored a solo golazo in the final minute of the game to make it 3-1 after he ran past the entire Atleti defence and beat Oblak with a low shot.
Dani Ceballos: 8.5
Kept up his good form in the derby, and found Vinicius for the final goal of the game. Sensational cameo with 120 touches despite not playing the first half.
The youngster came on in the 70th minute for Valverde and got on the scoreboard just ten minutes later. Scored a world-class goal to level things up by running beyond four Atletico defenders and poking the ball past Oblak.
Was a lively presence throughout, and injected energy into Real Madrid’s forward line when they needed it the most. Assisted the second goal with great presence of mind.
Marco Asensio: 3
Discouraging cameo disappeared on the field after coming on.
Jan Oblak: 6
Continued his poor run of form. Could have reacted better to both Rodrygo and Vinicius’ goals as he was easily beaten near the post.
Nahuel Molina: 7.5
The Argentine’s one-touch ball across the face of the goal after receiving Koke’s pass was the reason Los Rojiblancos could take the lead. Was massive in defence with six recoveries and three clearances. Not much he could do about the goals scored by Real.
Stefan Savic: 5
The veteran centre-back was taken to the cleaners by Rodrygo for Real Madrid’s equaliser but was solid for most of the remainder of the game.
Made a headless decision to commit to a late poor tackle on Camavinga. As a result, he saw a second yellow and left his team a man down for extra time.
Mario Hermoso: 6.5
Average performance from the Spanish defender was left to fight a lone bate after Savic’s sending-off.
One of the Rojiblancos’ most disappointing players against Real Madrid. Offered absolutely nothing in the final third and suffered defensively against Rodrygo in the second half.
Was absolutely vital for Atletico’s opening goal as he found Molina with a very difficult lofted ball. However, a relatively average performance from the Spanish veteran apart from his moment of magic. Nothing flashy.
Rodrigo de Paul: 7
The World Cup winner played over 80 minutes and drove Atletico’s midfield. Created two chances and a big chance, and completed 90% of his attempted 71 passes.
Thomas Lemar: 4.5
Barely visible in his 75 minutes on the field, no major contributions or extensive involvement in Atletico’s play.
Antoine Griezmann: 6.5
Led the charge for Atletico in attack and put in a hard-working defensive performance to back it up. Yet, one would expect more impact from a player of his stature.
Angel Correa: 5
Was a shadow of his true self, and lost a game-high nine duels at Santiago Bernabeu.
Alvaro Morata: 8
Helped Atletico Madrid take the lead against his former club with a simple finish into an open goal. Had just 12 passes in 63 minutes, and completed just six. Could not record a single shot on goal apart from the one he scored from.
Axel Witsel: 4.5
Came on at the hour mark for Morata as Diego Simeone looked to flip on the defensive switch. Created and missed a big chance each during his stay on the field but was horribly undone by Rodrygo for the Merengues’ equaliser. Involved in another mess-up in Real Madrid’s second as he failed to clear the ball.
Yannick Carrasco: 4
Just 22 touches and 14 passes in close to 45 minutes of action.
Memphis Depay: 6
Had a good chance to equalise in the 109th minute but put forward a tame effort. A good cameo from the Dutchman from a creative perspective, nevertheless.
Saul Niguez: 6
Good defensive numbers in his cameo but could not give Simeone’s side any edge in the final third.
Geoffrey Kondogbia: 6
Nothing flashy from the central midfielder completed 100% of his attempted dribbles.