Three talking points from Chelsea 0-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid replicated their first-leg result against Chelsea on Tuesday night when the two teams faced off in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The end result was a dominant 4-0 aggregate win for Los Blancos and a spot in the semi-finals.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men found the back of the net twice in England, both coming off the boots of Rodrygo Goes. However, there were far more crests and troughs for the men in white last night than the result would suggest.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Chelsea vs Real Madrid.
1. Chelsea reborn for 45 minutes
If the first leg of the UEFA Champions League clash between Real Madrid and Chelsea was anything to go by, one would have expected a one-sided game at Stamford Bridge. The English giants were poor in Spain, struggling to even win the ball back and string passes together.
However, the second leg did not lack any of the Champions League’s usual fire. Purely going by the opening half, it was actually Chelsea that appeared to be the better team.
In the first 45 minutes, the hosts had not only more possession but over double as much threat in front of goal when compared to Real Madrid.
They had seven shots in the first period, creating and missing two big chances in the process. They had two shots blocked and forced two saves from Thibaut Courtois. Marc Cucurella’s chance late in the first half went down as a massive opportunity squandered as his effort from point-blank range was denied by Courtois.
For the performance the hosts delivered in the opening period, it would not be wrong to say that they deserved a goal. However, Real Madrid’s ability to counteract and deny that only shows why they were clearly the superior side over two legs.
2. Saviours all over the field
Real Madrid’s run to the semi-finals has been relatively straightforward so far, but things could have gotten complicated on Tuesday night. Los Blancos’ only came out unscathed because they had no dearth of individual performers at Stamford Bridge.
To begin with, Thibaut Courtois was magnificent in goal. The Belgian has always enjoyed the UCL nights, but his six saves including five from inside the box against Chelsea could well go down as one of his best. His denying Marc Cucurella, in particular, was a game-changing moment.
Eder Militao and Eduardo Camavinga stepped up to the occasion in defence and recorded jaw-dropping numbers.
The Brazilian had 16 defensive actions on the night including eight clearances while the French star won a whopping 11 duels in addition to five clearances, two tackles and two interceptions.
Federico Valverde bossed the middle of the park and was rightly crowned as man-of-the-match at full-time. He did not lay a foot wrong, producing three key passes and completing all four attempted dribbles against Chelsea. Further, he created one big chance and got the assist for Rodrygo’s second goal.
The saviour in the final third was young Rodrygo. The Brazilian sensation overshadowed his teammates with smart movements, combinations, and positioning. He created Real Madrid’s opening goal on his own and was in the right place at the right time to bury the second one.
3. Two more steps to go
Carlo Ancelotti’s side are now just two ties away from etching their name on the UEFA Champions League trophy for the second time in as many years. A spot in the final four is theirs, and with the draw already made, Ancelotti knows his next hurdle.
Manchester City and Bayern Munich face off later today at the Allianz Arena to seal a semi-final berth against Real Madrid. The bookies have Pep Guardiola’s side as overwhelming favourites following their 3-0 lead from the first leg.
On the other half of the draw, a Milan derby in the semifinal could be on the cards. Irrespective of the result in Italy, Real Madrid would be the favourites if they made the finals.
There is thus just one difficult hurdle to cross for the Merengues in the form of Manchester City, spearheaded by Erling Haaland. A positive result in the semi-final would take them on the cusp of defending their title and would set up a final not many would see the Merengues lose.
Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place
Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.
The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.
Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.
1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?
The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.
An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.
The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.
Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.
In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.
It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.
2. A day of farewells
Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.
Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.
With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.
The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.
Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.
3. A tight race for second place
There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.
Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.
Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.
With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.