The next round of the UEFA Champions league is on its way, with Monaco, Juventus, Real Madrid, and Atletico de Madrid all looking for a spot in the big final in Cardiff.
Real Madrid 3 – Atlético de Madrid 0
An inspired Cristiano Ronaldo has Real Madrid with one foot in Wales, thanks to a hat-trick from the Portuguese star.
The game at Santiago Bernabeu was less balanced and more one-sided than expected. Real Madrid came out with a very offensive 4-3-1-2 approach, with Isco coming back to the starting lineup playing as an offensive midfielder behind Benzema and Cristiano. This resulted in a key move by Zinedine Zidane that would be quite the game-changer. Isco’s talent and ability with the ball proved to be just what was needed to break Atletico’s tough defense.
Atletico came out with their usual 4-4-2 looking to defend first and waiting patiently for a chance to make a quick counter attack. This time their usually tough and closed defense failed, mainly due to the inclusion of Isco in the game. Every time Isco had the ball, he managed to pull away more than one defender with runs and dribbling that left Atletico’s defense unorganized, which created spaces for wingers like Marcelo and Carvajal, or even midfielders like Luka Modric, to incorporate themselves from the back and manage to make damaging crosses, through balls, and even shots on goal.
One of these crosses ended up on a Cristiano Ronaldo header that saw the net to make Real Madrid open up the score early in the game at the 10th minute and make it 1-0 for the Galacticos.
Atletico was nowhere to be found during the rest of the half. Although they managed to gain control of the ball a little more after coinciding the goal, they weren’t able to create any real chances on goal, and Real Madrid constantly kept getting dangerously close to the net every time they had possession. The first half stats show this, with Atletico only managing to get one shot on goal and only having 34% of the possession.
The second half showed more of the same. Atletico didn’t manage to create any sort of reaction as Simeone barely made any modifications to his lineup and formation. The game appeared to be a replay of the first half, the only difference is that Real Madrid appeared to be playing at only 50% of their full potential and at times even looking comfortable with the 1-0 result. But even playing like this and with Carvajal injured, Real Madrid managed to create several chances which again saw the net at the 76th minute courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo.
With Atletico against the ropes, and a more confident Real Madrid, the “merengues” kept their attacks even more consistent which resulted in another goal by Cristiano at the 86th minute to give him his second hat trick in this Champions league competition. It was his easiest goal of the night, as he controlled Lucas Vazquez’s cross in plenty of space before firing home, apparently sealing away the leg and putting Real Madrid very close to a second consecutive UCL final.
It might seem on paper that Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid will be in Cardiff with a chance to make history and become the first team since the Champions League rebranding in 1992 to win the cup twice in a row.
Monaco 0- Juventus 2
An effective and very tactical Juventus is on the brink of reaching the UEFA champions league final in Cardiff.
The game in Monaco against the home team didn’t start off well for Juventus. The French team was off to a flying start in the game pressuring the Italians and creating many chances on goal early on. Goalkeeper legend Gianluigi Buffon was tested during the first minutes when he blocked a powerful shot from Mbappe at the goal line.
Juventus slowly began to react and managed to create some scoring chances themselves soon after until the game became pretty balanced, with back to back scoring opportunities for both teams. Usually with Monaco with a 4-4-2 formation that became a 4-2-4 attacking, using build up plays, and then Juventus following with their well-known counter attacks. Juventus came out once again with a 5-3-2 formation with a counter attacking mindset.
It was in the 28th minute when the tie was broken. The Bianconeri managed to deliver a quick counter attack after suffering pressure from Monaco on their own side of the field. With only 5 passes on a play that started from Buffon, went through to Dybala and Dani Alves and ended with Gonzalo Higuain, Juventus took the lead at Monaco.
Monaco reacting by putting more pressure on Juventus, taking over possession on the ball and managing to keep in on the Italians side of the pitch for the most time. However, they failed to create clear chances on goal, with their plays always seemingly to end up hitting a wall, made up of the tough Italian international defenders Chiellini and Bonucci.
The game continued in the same way during the second half with Monaco attacking and with possession of the ball and Juventus patiently defending and waiting for a chance to counterattack. Monaco changed to a more offensive 4-3-3 formation and started to rely less on the build up to create chances, and used their players speed, individual ability, and crosses to try and create chances on the opposing goal. When Monaco were playing at their best, and appeared to have a chance to tie the game, getting dangerously close to the Juventus net, Bakayoko lost the ball in the midfield while initiating an attack, that gave way to yet another Juventus counter attack, that this time reached the feet of Higuain who made the score 2-0.
Monaco kept attacking on the remaining minutes, but kept hitting the Italian wall, and were not able to create clear chances on net. Juventus once more waited patiently defending, seemingly in clear control of the game.
The final whistle blew and thanks to Argentinian striker Higuain, Juventus now will receive Monaco at home in Turin with 2-0 away goal advantage on aggregate, that after seeing how they handled Barcelona, seems quite hard for the French to overcome this lead. The “vecchia signora del calcio” has her eyes set on the final in Cardiff.