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Three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool



Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid coasted to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night with a 1-0 win in the second leg of the Round of 16.

Liverpool were far better at the Santiago Bernabeu than at Anfield and fought on a level field for large parts of the game. In the end, however, the demand for four goals proved too steep for Jurgen Klopp’s men as the hosts leapt away to a 6-2 aggregate win.

Karim Benzema scored the only goal on the night with Vinicius Jr taking credit for the assist. Yet, every player in white performed exceptionally in their position and helped the team record an all-round performance.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid vs Liverpool.

1. Better late than never

No lead in football can be declared completely safe. In competitions like the UEFA Champions League, that statement becomes more true than ever.

Real Madrid had a three-goal cushion over Jurgen Klopp’s side before the two teams met at the Santiago Bernabeu. The men in red thus required four goals on the night to proceed to the next round.

With every passing minute that the Merseyside team did not score, the balance shifted towards the Merengues. However, there was a need for Real Madrid to score just one goal on the night to crush Liverpool’s hopes and kill the tie.

Given the visitors’ high line and desperate attempts to get forward, Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema often found themselves orchestrating devastating counterattacks. Chance after chance fell their way, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men could never find the finish.

Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric came very close to scoring in the first period. Meanwhile, Vinicius missed an easy opportunity while Benzema looked lost in front of the goal.

There are hardly any negatives for the men in white to take away from Wednesday’s game. The one, however, that cannot be ignored, is the hosts’ struggle to put away their chances.

Los Blancos recorded four big chances on the night and could convert just one, showing that there are still glaring concerns to be addressed in the final third.

Benzema himself had three blocked shots, two on target and one shot off target against Liverpool. On another night, the Frenchman could have sealed a hattrick, and it is clear that he is far from his best.

2. Courtois comes clutch

Courtois came up clutch for Madrid (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

The most critical aspect of any two-legged tie when defending a lead is to not concede early. An early goal against Real Madrid on Wednesday would have boosted Liverpool’s confidence exponentially, whilst simultaneously putting the hosts under tremendous pressure.

Jurgen Klopp’s side began the game on the front foot, advancing fearlessly into Real Madrid’s box and threatening to score. They began the game with conviction that a comeback was possible and even came painfully close to scoring the first goal on numerous occasions.

The man who stood between Liverpool and their dream comeback was Thibaut Courtois.

The Belgian International was superb in between the sticks, denying the Reds time and time again with clutch saves. In 90 minutes, he produced five saves including a whopping four from inside the box.

Liverpool’s threat fizzled out as the game progressed and the shot-stopper did not have much to do in the second half. However, his magnificent showing in the opening period should rightfully go down as one of the biggest reasons Real Madrid could comfortably navigate through the second leg.

3. And then there were eight

The full-time whistle at Santiago Bernabeu not only signalled the end of Real Madrid’s two-legged tie against Liverpool but also the cessation of the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League.

The draw for the remaining tournament will be held in Switzerland on Friday, and the men in white could face off against any of the seven sides that remain.

All eight contestants are challengers and champion sides in their own right. Yet, there is an undeniable demarcation in quality amongst the teams remaining.

Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Napoli nestle in the creme-de-la-creme of Europe and would be the toughest competitors for Real Madrid in the coming round.

Chelsea, Benfica, AC Milan and Inter Milan will be no easy oppositions either, but with all due respect to the aforementioned clubs, will present a more favourable draw for Real Madrid.

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Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid



Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

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.

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.

Goal machine. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

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.

Youthful energy

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.

Captain material. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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