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Three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool

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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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Features

Three talking points ahead of Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid | La Liga GW 25

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Nestled in the outskirts of Madrid is Vallecas, the home of Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid’s next destination as per the La Liga calendar. The Estadio de Vallecas is famed as one the Spain’s more difficult stadiums for away sides to perform at, but as the league leaders, Real Madrid will gun for nothing short of a win tomorrow.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men enter the game on Sunday with a five-point lead at the top of the table. With five wins in their last six games across all competitions, they also have the momentum on their side.

Their opponents, meanwhile, are not on quite similar terms based on form. Rayo Vallecano have won just five of their 24 league games this season and have scored just 21 times in that duration. Moreover, they currently sit in 14th place on the standings, seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid.

Test for the attack

Very few teams have been able to avoid the wrath of Real Madrid this season. The men in white have come out on top in most of the clashes that they have played across all competitions, winning 100% of the UCL games and 19 of their 24 games in La Liga.

Rayo Vallecano is one of the few teams that has managed to take points off the leaders this season, and that goes a long way in establishing their defensive supremacy and resilience this term.

When Vallecano visited the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season, they ground out a 0-0 draw. Notably, they are the only team other than Atletico Madrid this season to take points away from Real Madrid at home.

Los Blancos created several chances on the night and even missed two big chances. However, the truth behind the statistics is that Rayo Vallecano’s defence was on point, with Stole Dimitrievski dishing out a clinic in goal.

Heading into tomorrow’s clash, all eyes will thus be on the attack. Will Real Madrid’s dynamic forward unit succeed in getting past the defensive unit that plagued them back in November?

Champion worthy team

League leaders. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

Everything about Ancelotti’s side this season screams of the word champion. After all, they have made it look ridiculously easy to drop high-class performances week after week, all while battling with debilitating hurdles along the way.

Purely from a fitness perspective, the 2023-24 campaign has been far from simple for Los Blancos. Having lost three players to ACL injuries in addition to the regular list of shorter injuries players have suffered, the manager has never had the entire squad at his disposal.

Yet, the players drop sensational performances whenever called on. Be it in their niche position or a completely alien one in that, every player donning the Real Madrid crest this season has delivered beyond expectations. That, if anything, is the mark of a champion unit.

The Merengues showed their grit and determination to take down Girona by a 4-0 scoreline earlier this month before pulling away with a tight, yet well-fought 1-0 win over RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League.

They head into tomorrow’s clash riding on the same momentum, knowing full well that every win from this point only engraves their name deeper on the league trophy. As long as the fire continues to burn in them, it will take something very special to take apart this Real Madrid unit.

Nearly at the end of the tunnel

Of all the dilemmas Carlo Ancelotti has faced over the course of the season, his recent defensive crisis was the most serious by far. The manager was pushed into a situation where he had no fit centre-backs to call on, forcing him to start Dani Carvajal and Aurelien Tchouameni in defence.

Not many expected the same game to turn out to be Real Madrid’s best showing of the season, and though both makeshift defenders put in enormous shifts, Nacho Fernandez’s return for the next game came as a welcome arrival.

The Spaniard is fit for tomorrow’s clash and will be joined by Aurelien Tchouameni once again, for Antonio Rudiger is yet to receive the medical all-clear. Considering that the German is expected to be fit in time for Real Madrid’s next league clash, tomorrow could be the last time the French midfielder is forced to play out of position in defence.

Needless to say, this can only be described as the light at the end of a long and winding tunnel. Tchouameni put in a tremendous shift to ensure that the handicap did not affect Real Madrid’s season, and the manager will be delighted to see that the days with two fit central defenders are not far away.

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