The soccer world has been overtaken by the Barcelona miracle win over PSG, but let’s focus on the importance of Real Madrid also advancing to the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League. On March 7, Real Madrid faced SSC Napoli in the Champions League round of 16. The first leg was at the Santiago Bernabeu where Real Madrid beat SSC Napoli 3-1 and the second leg was at Napoli’s Estadio San Paolo, and the game was very similar to the first game. In fact, the two games were almost identical.
SSC Napoli was hoping to overcome a 3-1 deficit on aggregate. They have been one of the best teams while playing at home and they are a top five team in goal scoring in all European leagues. They were very confident and just like the first game against Madrid, they were the first to score. Dries Mertens scored in 24th minute and SSC Napoli dominated completely during the first half. Once the second half started, the game changed in the favor of Real Madrid. Madrid was not playing particularly well, but Sergio Ramos scored two goals from set pieces which destroyed the Italian side. Alvaro Morata put the nail in the coffin when he scored the third goal in the 90th minute resulting in a 3-1 game in favor of “Los Blancos”.
Real Madrid has demonstrated once again they are one of the most dominant teams in Europe; this was a very hard win to get, especially playing as the away side. The only negative of the game is that Real Madrid showed that they still struggle in the beginning of games. Many of the Real Madrid faithful believe their struggles at the beginning of games is due to the fact that Real Madrid’s attacking trio has been struggling to play together. The “BBC” has struggled to score goals while they are all playing together and the team has also suffered defensively while they are playing.
The defensive struggles come because Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale do not pressure or defend as much, leaving a lot of work to be done for the midfielders. This has led to a lack of success while they are playing together. It always seems they play better when one or two of them are not playing. For example, the game against Eibar was a dominant showing from the team and both Bale and Ronaldo did not play. Against Las Palmas, Bale was thrown out of the game with a red card and Ronaldo then scored twice to tie the game. Benzema has not been in great form this season. He has scored seven goals and Alvaro Morata has scored eight goals coming off the bench most of the games.
This is a clear indication of two things. First that Real Madrid has the deepest squad in Europe because even though the star players are not playing as well together, the bench players have impacted the team positively. The second thing is that maybe the Real Madrid manager must think about changing his starting 11. For the final stretch of the season, Zinedine Zidane will have to hope that his three stars start to play well together or he will have to start rotating a lot. Morata has proven to be very effective and he has made his case to replace Benzema. Zidane has his options in the future but his squad has demonstrated that this is a team that is deep enough to win the Champions League and the La Liga title. Real Madrid’s next opponent is against Real Betis in a La Liga matchup on March 12.