Resilience at its best

Real Madrid’s top shape period continues with a successful draw against Liverpool. The Blancos move on to the next stage of the 2020/2021 Champions League competition. 

Photo credits: Real Madrid C.F.

By Daphne Seberich

Real Madrid are back in the semi-finals. For the eighth time in the last ten years, the Blancos are on track to raise the trophy with the big ears for the 14th time in their history. A brilliant first leg allowed the Merengues to fly to England with a significant advantage over their British competitors. The draw at Anfield against Liverpool was enough for the Madridistas to make it through to the last four of the 2020/2021 Champions League competition. 

Strikers Vinicius Jr. and Marco Asensio determined the fate of their team when it mattered the most, punishing Alisson with three goals during the first leg of the quarter-finals. The Madrid-based team is definitely on a high, coming from a 3-1 triumph at the Alfredo Di Stéfano against Liverpool and a 2-1 win against their rivals Barcelona at the almighty Clásico

Thibaut Courtois was a crucial asset for the Merengues. The Belgian proved to be in superb shape, impeding Liverpool to score an advantage. A particular moment in the match between the two giants of football was an incredible save by the Blancos’ goalkeeper. Courtois neutralized a dangerous attempt by Salah when he stroked the ball away from his goal with his left foot with incredible class and elegance.  

Photo credits: David Klein for REUTERS

Soon after, the Belgian goalkeeper had to perform another big save against James Milner. It was clear that the Reds would not leave the Champions League without giving a proper fight to the Blancos, especially at Anfield. The Madridistas’ efforts, although, were superior and allowed them to remain untouched for the first half of the match.

Benzema came close to putting the definitive nail in Liverpool’s coffin. A brilliant solo effort from the Real Madrid striker, who already scored a “work of art” goal at the Clásico the weekend before, almost put the Blancos ahead. The on-target shot was, although, not finalized, as the ball hit the post of Alisson’s goal. 

The strong performance of midfielder Kroos, Casemiro and evergreen Modrić allowed Real Madrid to get back on track in the second half. Even though their opponents were constantly pressing them in their half of the pitch, the trio assured their teammates by displaying resilience. 

Photo credits: Real Madrid C.F.

The Merengues almost put the game to bed with an attempt by Vinicius Jr., served by tenacious Fede Valverde, to pierce Alisson’s net. The Brazilian goalkeeper read the situation right away and came off his line to cleared the ball. 

The Spaniard came to this crucial match just barely having recovered from an ankle injury. His attendance came off as a surprise as Zidane’s starting eleven was announced to the public. Furthermore, Valverde was set to play for the first time as a  right-back in the typical 4-3-3 Real Madrid lineup.

Real Madrid will now face Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea in the semi-final of the Champions League. The Blues’ coach has well-renowned experience with the final stages of the competition, having reached last year’s final with PSG. The Blancos have acquired an enormous amount of experience, having lifted three trophies with the big ears for three years in a row. Zidane’s accomplishments speak for themselves. Can he succeed in becoming the most successful Real Madrid coach in the team’s history?

Photo credits: Real Madrid C.F.

The Old Lady and CR7: a match made in heaven

Juventus annihilates the Blaugrana to earn the top spot of the Champions League Group G ranking, beating them 0:3 thanks to two penalty kicks scored by the one and only CR7. Never had an Italian team scored as many goals against Barcelona at Camp Nou. 

Photo credits: Tuttomercatoweb.com

By Daphne Seberich

What a stellar night it was for Juventus. The decisive Matchday 6 game was the last opportunity for the Bianconeri to secure the top spot of the Champions League Group G, allowing them to play in the round-of-16 with the 2nd best team ranked in the other groups. Juventus had a colossal task to be able to beat Lionel Messi and his team to 1st place. They needed to score at least three goals and have a two-goal difference to pass the group stage as leaders.

Barcelona was unbeaten in 38 UEFA Champions League home matches, a run that started in September 2013. On the 8th of December 2020, over seven years later, the winning streak came to an end, thanks to a historical team effort of the Italian club. 

It was the night of the exes. Miralem Pjanić, who played four years for the Old Lady and was considered as one of the pillars of the team, was part of an exchange deal undergone by Barça and Juve last summer. The 30-year old Bosnian player got transferred to the Catalan team. Arthur, the young Brazilian prodigy, arrived in Turin to play for Juve. 

Before the Matchday 6 game between the two rivals, Miralem Pjanić released an interview to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, voicing criticism against his new coach Koeman and the atmosphere at the Spanish team, sparking rumors of him wanting to move back to Italy. 

Photo credits: El País

That did not help the Spaniards to keep a united front against the Bianconeri. The Blaugrana struggled the whole match. Keeping up with the high pace of the game was not an easy task for the strained team. Their current performance in La Liga is not helping the morale of the team either. 

Right from the get-go, the Old Lady set the pace, dominating the field. The Catalans were like puppets in the hands of the Juventini puppeteers.

Shivers came down the back for the Barça supporters in the 12th minute of the match.

CR7 was fowled in Barça’s penalty area, letting Tobias Stieler award a penalty to the Bianconeri. Cristiano Ronaldo’s talent and knowledge from the penalty mark allowed him to score what would be the first of three goals of the match. 

Soon after, a perfect pass from Cuadrado turned into an assist for McKennie, who blasted the ball mid-air into the goal defended by German Ter Stegen. Juventus scored two goals in the first twenty minutes of the match, something that no one could have seen coming.

Photo credits: El Comercio Perú

The Bianconeri were striving, thanks in particular to Álvaro Morata’s deadly counterattacks, which put loads of pressure on the Catalan club. The intensity was at an all-time high. 

A first-half-last-minute scare was McKennie knocking down Messi in the Bianconeri’s penalty area, but the VAR demonstrated that the foul was an accident and not intentional. No penalty was awarded.

The second half of the match saw Barça fight back, but the Italians were just on another planet. McKennie, who in my opinion was the man-of-the-match, kicked a challenging ball towards Ter Stegen’s goal, which the German, by a miracle, managed to punch off the pitch. The VAR showed Lenglet touching the ball with his hand far off the sides of his body inside of his penalty area. Tobias Stieler decided to concede the second penalty of the match to the Juventini. 

Photo credits: Outlook India

CR7 did not disappoint and scored the second penalty and final goal of the game. Juventus had earned the needed advantage to secure first place in the group ranking.

The legendary Italian goalkeeper Buffon, who replaced Szczęsny for this match, saved the Juventini from a potential goal at the 65th minute of the game, proving that he still is one of the greatest, even at age 42.

Photo credits: Getty Images

Bonucci managed to score a fourth goal for Juve, which unfortunately did not get validated due to Ronaldo’s offside. He had served the Italian defender the ball.   

Juventus was playing their best football of this season. The team looked united, supporting each other and fighting for every ball, no matter which position the players were supposed to be playing. Even CR7 gave it a go sweeping the ball off Messi in his penalty area during the second half of the match. 

FC Barcelona is in big trouble. Potentially, they could draw a top-ranked team that could cut their Champions League path short, letting them miss out on a substantial amount of money, of which they are in desperate need.

Now, we can only wait until the 14th of December to find out against which team Juve will play in the round-of-16. Fact is, they will have an easier task than the Spanish rivals to make it to the quarterfinal stage of the 2020/2021 Champions League.

Photo credits: Il Corriere dello Sport