Three talking points from Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid
Real Madrid mercilessly butchered Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Tuesday night in front of the local fans in a UEFA Champions League classic. Being two goals down, the men in white scored five goals in succession to bag a ruthless win and take home a massive advantage for the second leg.
Vinicius Jr scored twice to level the score before Eder Militao gave his side the lead early in the second half with a strong header. Karim Benzema then arrived on the scene, scoring twice to put the game to bed.
With this performance, the Merengues engrave their names as one of the favourites to lift the trophy yet again, especially given that there is no single outright contender this time around.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid.
1. A little luck and a dash of quality
Fourteen minutes into Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League tie, Real Madrid seemed to be fighting an uphill battle. Liverpool had gotten off to an inspired start, not only in terms of goals but also in sheer domination of the chances.
Mohamed Salah’s vertical run on the right coupled with Darwin Nunez’s audacious finish saw Jurgen Klopp’s side lead in just the fourth minute. Ten minutes later, Thibaut Courtois gifted the hosts a second, and seemingly decisive goal with an erroneous pass that fell at Salah’s feet.
Being two goals down, Real Madrid required a trigger to inspire them back to their best. That switch set off rather quickly for the visitors, through a combination of individual quality and luck.
Vinicius Jr is a world-class player on his day and belongs among the elite wingers of football. When Real Madrid were momentarily silenced by the back-to-back setbacks, it was the Brazilian who sprung to life and pulled one back.
The youngster played a lovely sequence with Karim Benzema before cutting in from the left, seeing off the defenders and curling the ball beyond Alisson and into the far corner. Executing such a move with perfection on such a massive stage proves Vinicius’ calibre and also came as a big psychological boost to his teammates.
Just 15 minutes later, the gods smiled on Ancelotti’s men and gifted them a rather unexpected goal out of the blue. Alisson’s misplaced pass struck the feet of a running Vinicius Jr, and before the winger realised what had happened, his name was on the scoresheet again as the ball looped back into the net.
Up until half-time, the game was well-balanced. Yet, nobody expected what was to follow after the break.
2. The big boys arrive
Real Madrid’s psychology is difficult to understand. The men in white have not managed to put five goals past any opposition in La Liga this season, even losing to Mallorca and Villarreal in recent weeks. Come the Champions League, however, they transform into a completely different monster.
Over the years, the Merengues have proven that domestic form plays no role in their European campaign. The sheer mentality to play two goals down as if nothing has happened shows why they are the defending champions.
In the second half, Ancelotti’s men gave Liverpool no chance. They battered the men in red to no end, putting goals into the net for fun. To give such a dominant performance at one of the world’s most daunting away stadiums in the UCL marks the coming of a champion.
There could not be a better way for Real Madrid to announce their intent to defend their crown to the world.
A brace from Benzema and Vincius Jr, a timeless midfield performance from Luka Modric, Eduardo Camavinga’s youthful maturity and the improved second-half defence is more than anything the manager could ask for. In such imperious form and mentality, the title is theirs to lose. Real Madrid have arrived, and in some style.
3. Almost there, but not quite
A few years ago, a three-goal lead in the away leg of a UCL tie almost ascertained a team a spot in the next round. After all, the away goals rule meant that the rival would have to put four goals past them in the reverse fixture to make a comeback.
With the aforementioned legislation no longer in use, Real Madrid’s goals at Anfield carry no extra weightage. Jurgen Klopp’s men can break level and force extra time by securing a three-goal difference at Santiago Bernabeu.
For all practical purposes, the defending champions’ lead is insurmountable. Given their resilience and mental fortitude, it is difficult to imagine any team in the world pulling a comeback over the kings of comebacks. Yet, as they say, never celebrate until it’s over.
Real Madrid have a crucial 90 minutes next month and face both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the interim period. It thus becomes vital for Ancelotti’s men to ride on the high and keep their momentum going until they see off the Merseyside team for good.
Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid
Real Madrid have been notoriously heavy spenders in the summer transfer market in the past but have not spent an awful lot over the last few seasons due to financial restrictions and their team finding its peak at the right time.
Real Madrid did shell out close to €100 million for Aurelien Tchouameni last year, and got Eduardo Camavinga in the summer of 2021 for around €400 million, too.
It does seem like they have a huge summer planned ahead of them, though. The club plans to splash some cash on multiple positions, including centre-forward, right-wing, central midfield, and across the defence.
Some targets are laid out for these positions, with Kylian Mbappe naturally being on the list.
However, one definite target for Madrid that’s been well-established already is Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. His price tag is set at around €100-140 million, and Los Blancos are among the teams leading the race for his signature, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Englishman has an obviously high ceiling and is already among the best players in his position in Europe. Moreover, he adds depth across various skillsets and attributes that Real Madrid currently lack or will lack as the clock marches on.
Madrid Universal explores three different things Bellingham can bring to the table for an already talented Galacticos side.
Goals from midfield
Despite not playing an advanced role, Bellingham is a rather experienced poacher in the box. This comes with his thorough understanding of offensive routines, and timing his runs to perfection in the box.
Being 6’1″ and physically gifted, the teenager can attack crosses and passes into the box with ease. He boasts of a rather impressive leap as well, which was more than visible during the World Cup, when he opened the scoring against Iran.
Goal – JUDE BELLINGHAM— masih miness (@WorldCup__id) November 21, 2022
England 1-0 Iran (34 mins) pic.twitter.com/CkCxl45mU1
The English midfielder has scored four goals in the league for Dortmund, and has accumulated an xG of 5.25 across the season. That is nearly two more than Madrid’s highest scoring midfielder – Luka Modric.
Currently, Madrid’s goals are rather lopsidedly dependent on the forward line, with Toni Kroos and Modric just chipping in with a combined six goals in the league out of a possible 51.
While both players, and Camavinga, are adept at shooting from range, neither quite provide the box threat or the third-man runs Madrid are currently craving for.
Once Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr are boxed out of the game, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggle with ideas, and are often stuck in a pattern of crossing and hoping for the best.
And even with that, Bellingham could prove to be an excellent solution to their problems, coming up with late runs into the box and attacking crosses and loose balls.
Far too many times this season, Ancelotti has been criticised for using Modric and Kroos in the same midfield. Especially when their bench holds the likes of Camavinga, Dani Ceballos, and sometimes even Federico Valverde.
However, it is clear that these players have been delegated to certain roles in midfield. Camavinga and Tchouameni shuffle as pivot options, while Ceballos is called upon add more creativity in the centre of the park.
Bellingham, while far from the best ball retainer, certainly has energy and lungs for days. He can run from box to box, receive and turn in a crowded midfield, and chase the ball till the 90.
While they have Valverde in a similar mould, the Uruguayan has been tasked with running the right-wing more often than not, at least under Ancelotti. It will be interesting to see how another coach would utilise both players to their respective strengths should the transfer go through.
Long-term captaincy candidate
At 19, Bellingham has already shown signs of becoming a captain for any side he plays for, for years to come. He has donned the armband for Dortmund several times this season already, and was first awarded with it in October, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.
Currently, he holds the position of third captain for Dortmund, behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, but has already held the armband multiple times, including twice in the UEFA Champions League.
While Madrid have a fair few leaders in their ranks, including and not limited to the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and David Alaba, Bellingham has clearly proved that he is not only capable of taking on a leadership role, but also spearheading any side for years to come.
If all works out, the price tag of €120+ million will soon start to pale in comparison to the attributes he brings to the table alongside his unbelievably high ceiling and longevity.