Real Madrid have to rely on the return leg, and the fans’ support, to rally back from a 1-2 deficit in the hopes of making it to their second consecutive UCL final. If you would go based on history in European competitions and Real Madrid’s own past ties that started in the same manner, you would see that Real don’t have the advantage. However this is the semi-final of the biggest club competition in the world, and Ancelotti’s men will not be paying much attention to the past, yet this article well; as we try to find out the 3 main things that went wrong in Turin last night.
I believe this was the most obvious one and the one that caused the Whites the most harm. Before the match, Ancelotti said we had to defend better than they did in their most recent matches, come match time and we saw a Madrid team that gave a defensive performance that rivalled the one the team gave in the 4-0 Atletico defeat in terms of lack of quality and cohesiveness. Dani Carvajal and Marcelo, usually 2 of the most trusted and tested players in the squad performed astonishingly badly with terrible lack of pressure on Juve’s flanks, disorganisation, attacking in incorrect times, and harmful lack of creativity going front. As for the team’s centre backs, Pepe and Varane, they even had a hard time stopping a lone striker up front in the shape of former canterano Alvaro Morata. That is of course not to say that Morata is a bad striker, but for 2 fantastic defenders in Pepe and Varane to struggle while dealing with him is ridiculous. One can not forget how Varane’s mistake towards the end of the match almost gave Juve their 3rd goal and a probable significant advantage in the tie.
Ramos in Midfield
Sergio Ramos, as talented and brave as he is, played probably his worst match for Real Madrid since Ancelotti was appointed. Yes, it was that bad. The Sergio Ramos experience worked vs Atletico because he basically had a lot more defensive duties than last night in Turin. Against Juve, Ramos had to be creative, an aspect that he lacks greatly. At the same time not all blame should go his way as he is still a centre back naturally, so playing him in midfield and asking him to be creative vs one of the most solid defensive forces in Europe is a big big ask from Ancelotti. However Ramos didn’t fail because of his lack of creativity alone, he failed in his position because he literally couldn’t keep possession of the ball for more than a few seconds at a time. While his usually accurate long and diagonal passes were shambles as well. It is safe to say that while the Ramos experience passed with flying colours vs Atletico, it failed unquestionably last night.
One of the many underrated aspects in Karim Benzema’s game is his ability to pressure the main playmaker in the opponent’s team, and while that sometimes is unnecessary because the full team can press up and/or Ancelotti’s men already push the opponents backwards, it was necessary last night vs Juve. Juve’s biggest creative mind was left completely and utterly free to roam and pick his passes at his own leisure and desire, something that Benzema would have never allowed to happen. In the Frenchman’s absence, Cristiano, Bale, or James should’ve pressed up against Pirlo, just like Tevez and Vidal didn’t give Kroos much of a chance to create anything.
It is worth noting, in the end, that Juve needed home support, an extra intense performance (even by their own standards), a weakened Real Madrid, and a terrible performance by the Whites to get a measly 1-goal advantage to take to the Bernabeu (and let’s not forget the away goal). So it is safe to say that all is not lost, and a remontada is very much still in the cards.