Zidane, Casemiro and Lucas Vázquez
There you have it, Madrid are through to the Champions League quarter-finals and just five games away from lifting the title. Of course, this is where the competition really heats up. All the remaining teams, with the exception of Wolfsburg, instil fear. However, Madrid possess excellent players and if Zidane can find the right balance once and for all, the team will be fearsome. For now it looks as though he has settled on Casemiro as a defensive midfielder. Madrid tend to experience problems in the centre of the park when they line-up exclusively with stars, none of whom show any interest in running back to put out fires.
Also worthy of a mention is Lucas Vázquez. The Galician didn’t start the match, but when he came on for an exhausted Gareth Bale (who played well) there was a notable improvement in the team. He paved the way for the opening goal with a textbook bit of wide play, putting the ball on a plate for Cristiano. Lucas Vázquez is, in the words of Conti describing himself during an interview with AS, an ‘ala tornante’ (quite literally a hairpin winger), a wide man who tracks back. To start with, he’s a winger in the strictest and best sense of the word: he plays out on the flank, runs at defenders, leaves them in his dust and provides assists. But he understands that his duties don’t end there, he tracks back and tirelessly helps out the full-back behind him, never leaving him to deal with two opponents alone. Others in his position don’t consider this task to be part of their job descriptions.
Up until the deadlock being broken, it had been a highly intriguing game. Roma attacked the right side of the pitch like a freight train, with Salah always acting as the spearhead and exposing jink after jink in the armour of the Madrid back line. With the score still poised at 0-0, Roma threw away three clear golden opportunities to score. Lady luck ensured that Dzeko’s chance fell on his left foot while Salah was forced to pull the trigger with his right peg, neither of the two players’ favoured sides. Nonetheless, for all the saves Szczesny was forced into making, Madrid seemed anxious during the first hour of the match. That being said, there was time to enough towards the end to enjoy the fruits of their labour, applaud Totti, watch James finally put in a strong half-hour performance and consider the magnitude of Keylor Navas’s achievement. The Costa Rican has still yet to concede a goal in the Champions League.
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