After 4 rounds of group stage games, Borussia Monchengladbach sits on top of Real Madrid in 2nd with Shakhtar Donetsk in 3rd, and Inter Milan in 4th. This is not what pundits and experts expect. Monchengladbach has not lost in this group, defeating Shakhtar twice and drawing fixtures against Inter and Real. Real lost a game to Shakhtar and Inter has only 2 points, from draws with Shakhtar and Monchengladbach. Both sides needed the win. After an early penalty and a stupid Arturo Vidal dismissal, Real Secured a straightforward victory over the Milan side. We analyze some talking points from the game.
Antonio Conte’s European Woes Continue
In his first season at Juventus (11/12), his side did not qualify for European football. But after winning the Scudetto, they qualified for the next one. In the 12/13 season, they crashed out in the quarter-finals after defeat at the hands of eventual champions Bayern Munich. In the 13/14 season, they finished 3rd in the group, below Real Madrid and Galatasaray. They exited the Europa League after losing to Benfica.
He returned to club football with Chelsea in 2016 and again there was no European football in his first season. After qualifying for the UCL as Champion of England in the 17/18 season, they crashed out in the round of 16 after suffering a defeat to Barcelona. Last season he joined Inter Milan and he crashed out of the UCL in the group stage. In the Europa, they lost the final to Sevilla.
Conte is a top coach. Amidst all this, he has secured 4 league titles, 2 Supercoppa Italianas, and 1 FA Cup. But his European record is damning. If he finishes at the bottom of this group, he might get the sack. For some reason, his sides cannot get their shit together in Europe but this might be the worst performance of all his sides, especially if they finish last. There is still a chance for him and his side to salvage something with 2 games left.
Raphael Varane Shows His Class
The last 2 Champions League campaigns plus the current one have not been good for Varane. In the 18/19 season, Varane did not start the 1st leg of the tie against Ajax. Nacho and Sergio Ramos did and Madrid won 2-1 in the Netherlands. Varane returned for the 2nd leg and it ended 4-1 with Madrid exiting the competition in the round of 16. Last season, he was at fault for 2 of the goals that sent Madrid packing in the round of 16 against Manchester City.
For a player with so much experience, there is a notion that he cannot play his best game without Ramos by his side. Against Romelu Lukaku, who is one of the best strikers around, he held his own. Wearing the captain’s armband, he won 3 out of his 4 ground duels and 2 of the aerial duels he contested. Varane also made 58/61 passes, boasting a 95% accuracy. He is a world-class defender on his day and this was his day.
Headless Arturo Vidal Costs His Side Again
Vidal does not like Real Madrid. He has mentioned it a couple of times but he didn’t exactly use that hate to his advantage as his early 2 yellow cards resulted in his sending off. This is not the first time he is losing his cool against Madrid. The Chilean was sent off against Madrid in the 16/17 Champions League semi-final after receiving his second yellow in the 84th minute.
To be fair to him, there was a case to make to Anthony Taylor. You can see why he was angry but as soon as the first yellow appeared and he kept talking, you knew it was coming. Another headless moment from a player that has shown a lot of them over his career. He now holds a record alongside Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They are the only players to get red cards for 3 different teams in the UCL (Inter, Bayern, and Barcelona).
A Glimpse of the Old Hazard
Injuries and unprofessionalism threaten to deter his dream move but against Inter, he mesmerized like the Eden Hazard we know. Eden Hazard scored the first goal in the game from the spot. It was his first in the competition in more than 3 years, and his 3rd in Madrid colors. He completed 6 take-ons against Inter (his favorite stat to dominate) and it was a very good performance from him. Hopefully, he returns to his usual level to give Madrid more of these tantalizing displays. He won the man of the match award with his display of skill, technique, and ball movement. Bravo!
Rodrygo Is Enjoying Europe
He scored the second goal of the game immediately after coming on. It was the goal that sealed the game for Los Blancos when Inter looked like they were getting back into the game. The goal was his first touch, a minute after coming on.
Rodrygo loves this competition. He made his debut for Madrid in this competition, it was in a 1-0 win over Galatasaray in Turkey. He also scored a “perfect” hattrick against the Turkish giants in the 2nd leg, becoming the youngest Brazilian to score in the competition. Rodrygo is also the youngest player to score a hattrick in the competition after Raul. He is a very good finisher but he might need to go out on loan to get some consistent game time. Wherever he goes, we hope there is some Champions League football so he can keep improving his record.