clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Real Madrid have plenty of positives to build on

Both Atleti and Madrid were left to take positives from Tuesday night's Champions League stalemate at the Vicente Calderon but Carlo Ancelotti's men have plenty to build on for next week's second leg.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Tuesday night's stalemate at the Vicente Calderon left it all to play for when Madrid welcome Atletico to the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday and both sides were left to take positives from the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final clash.

For Diego Simeone's men, they were able to stretch their unbeaten run against Madrid to a stunning seven matches this season - becoming the first team to chalk up such a run in one season and equalling the seven-game unbeaten run against Los Blancos that Pep Guardiola's Barcelona achieved between April 2011 and April 2012.

The Liga champions also kept Madrid from scoring a crucial away goal and had goalkeeper Jan Oblak to thank for achieving that. It was the fourth time in as many matches at the Calderon this season that Madrid have failed to find the back of the net. Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti's men have only failed to score in five matches this season and four of those have been at the Calderon.

The result may have suited Atleti, a side who enjoy going to nick a goal and defend a lead away from home, as they did with Chelsea at the semi-final stage last season following a 0-0 on home soil in the first leg. Nor was the result a bad one for Madrid, who may have ended the match disappointed that they did not get a goal from the numerous good chances carved out but on reflection can take plenty of plus points from the 90 minutes.

Control of the match

Despite the stalemate, Madrid were in control of the match for long spells for the first time the sides have met this season. Ancelotti's men edged the possession with 54 per cent of the ball but that was not the indicative factor - they had 52 per cent of the play in the 4-0 league defeat in February and 61 per cent when they lost in the league at the Bernabeu.

Madrid orchestrated the match as they saw fit when it had been Atleti calling the tune in the previous six matches. They increased the pace when they saw weaknesses in their opposition and they slowed things down when they needed to. The whistles from the Calderon crowd have rarely been as loud in recent seasons when Madrid have had the ball - a sure-fire sign that the visitors were on top and frustrating their hosts. Unlike at the Bernabeu, the whistles were welcome.

It was helped by a better attitude and intensity, as requested by Ancelotti, but it was also helped by Atleti allowing their visitors more space and time on the ball than they have done in previous meetings this season. In the past, Simeone's side tried hard not to give Madrid but this time they seemed happy to allow their opponents more time and space.

A wider approach gets the required results

In Dani Carvajal and Marcelo, Madrid have two full-backs who like to hug the touchline but they did so more than usual at the Calderon and that spread Atleti across the pitch. Simeone usually likes his side to play compact in the middle of the pitch but Ancelotti ensured his side used the wide spaces and it helped open up space in the middle, too.

Carvajal, in particular, made the most of his freedom down the right in the first half and linked superbly with Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. Atleti could not allow the right-back too many opportunities and sent Koke further out to hep Guilherme Siqueira out. In turn, and with Marcelo doing a similar job on the left, that allowed Toni Kroos, Modric and James Rodriguez to overpower Gabi and Mario Suarez who were left in the middle.

Marcelo's suspension for the second leg is a big blow for Madrid and Ancelotti will need to make sure he has Fabio Coentrao, his probable replacement, well-drilled. The Portuguese player has played second fiddle to the Brazilian this season but he at least showed good form on the international front with Portugal recently and did a good job in the semi-final against Bayern last season.

Defending as a unit

Ancelotti often preaches his desire for his team to attack as a unit and defend as a unit. Often, players including, but not limited to, Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have failed to chip in with the necessary help defensively. Sometimes Madrid have got away with it in the more comfortable matches but against the better teams they have not.

This time every player chipped in at the back. Even Ronaldo, the one who sometimes seems to be exempt from tracking back, got in an important block and a well-timed tackle, as did Bale, while Benzema, although failing to shine in an attacking sense, did his usual good work at the back, clearing one corner and helping out throughout.

Bale's role was always going to be crucial and the Welshman got back into a midfield four when his side did not have the ball and he showed good awareness to cover for either Kroos or Modric when they were pulled further out wide.

Madrid were strong collectively and if they use the same tactics for the return leg they should thwart Atleti again. In total, the hosts had only eight shots on goal, the fewest from all seven matches this season alongside the 1-1 Spanish Super Cup clash at the Bernabeu, according to

Raphael Varane made great strides, quite literally

Carlo Ancelotti is yet to make his mind up over Raphael Varane's starting qualities but the Frenchman produced another starring performance on the European stage on Tuesday night.

Ancelotti would have probably gone with Peep alongside Sergio Ramos at the heart of the defence had the Portugal international been fully fit but Varane got his opportunity to continue and did not let his coach or his team down.

The French international was strong in the tackle, powerful in the air and he looked calm and composed against an Atleti attack that is well capable of ruffling feathers. He was no doubt helped by the presence of Ramos beside him. Varane is one of the best young defenders in the world but he has not been exempt from criticism, looking especially shaky when he lined-up alongside Nacho in the league fixture at the Calderon two months ago.

He showed his power going forward, too, with a great break from a loose Atleti corner kick, surging down the right before crossing the ball into the danger area and eventually seeing James have a shot well saved by Bola. The former Lens man is certainly not short of pace.

One of Varane's big breakthroughs came on the European stage against Manchester United with Jose Mourinho at the helm and he shone again in the Champions League with a performance that will no doubt have the biggest clubs on the continent knocking on his door this summer. Whether Ancelotti sticks with him next week or brings Pepe back remains to be seen.

Luka Modric adds star quality

Added width played a factor in pulling Atleti around the pitch and helping Madrid win the midfield battle but Modric's performance was crucial in that, too.

Madrid missed plenty of big players in the 4-0 league loss beside the Manzanares but perhaps none more so than Modric, who Simeone made special mention of before the match - and his pre-match prediction of the Croatian adding quality to Madrid was well on the money.

The former Tottenham Hotspur man seems to be back to 100 per cent match sharpness - something he wasn't at the Camp Nou, despite still producing a convincing performance. It showed with an energetic performance that kept Madrid ticking, especially through a high-tempo first half.

Modric will have been disappointed that he sent his first-half shot over the bar when he had space to find the target from the edge of the box but the midfield maestro was one of Madrid's star performers and they will need him at that level again next week.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Managing Madrid Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Real Madrid news from Managing Madrid