Real Madrid vs Chelsea and PSG vs Manchester City. The Champions League semi-finals. Given how the season started it’s a surprise to see Madrid there, given how they struggled to get out of the group stage. And got knocked out in the Copa del Rey and slipped down the the table in LaLiga. It was, at the team’s lowest point in the crisis when we saw Zidane angry for the first time: “Let us get on with the job, we’ve got the right to try.” And all of a sudden there they are, fighting it out at the top of the table with Atleti and Barça and in the Champions League semi-finals. Organising a threadbare squad, coping with serious injuries, Zidane’s got a group of veterans who’ll go with him wherever he tells them.
Real Madrid cope with Liverpool at Anfield
Last night they had to cope with Liverpool’s attacks with a makeshift defence. Lacking Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez, forced to play Nacho as a centre back (Varane and Sergio Ramos are out too), he played Valverde out wide and it worked. Liverpool stopped Real Madrid coming out, but the Real Madrid defence passed the test, closing down the gaps so well that even when Liverpool got through they were badly positioned. Except for the first chance, which fell to Salah, and which could have changed the game.
Later, with the team struggling, Zidane made two surprising changes, Odriozola and Rodrygo for Kroos and Vinicius and it worked. Just like when he brought on Isco for Asensio to slow things down. Liverpool did all the running, but Madrid were never pulled out of shape. The Premier side possibly deserved a goal, but Real Madrid probably deserved a bigger cushion from the first leg. The fact is Real Madrid are in the semi-finals and they deserve to be there, and possibly it’s time to recall they have got there without Sergio Ramos. Just a short while ago his absence was synonymous with defeat. That’s changed, and it might make him think about his stance on his contract renewal. Everyone is needed, nobody is indispensable.