What an April it has been for Real Madrid.
After opening the month with a thrilling win at Barcelona, Real went to Wolfsburg and suffered just their second loss under Zinedine Zidane.
To chalk up Wolfsburg's upset win to solely Real Madrid being lackadaisical or overconfident isn't fair to Wolfsburg -- they effectively clogged the wings and Real were unable to adapt. Ricardo Rodríguez had his way with Danilo, and Marcelo played one his worst matches of the season, missing defensive assignments and resorting to embarrassing theatrics.
After a few near-misses on chances to take the lead in the first 15 minutes, the (dodgy) penalty call on Casemiro, and the ensuing conversion by Rodríguez, Madrid's confidence was visibly affected. They failed to create many more scoring chances through the remainder of the leg.
Wolfsburg are most vulnerable through the center, a part of the pitch through which Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić are more than capable of delivering balls to the BBC. It isn't an insurmountable deficit, but Real won't get through by funneling the ball onto the wings and hoping for crosses to connect. The lack of chances created in Wolfsburg was frustrating, though it was encouraging to see Madrid be so potent on the counter against Eibar (three of their four goals came on the break, with the lone exception being James' free kick). Meanwhile, Wolfsburg have since drawn 1-1 with Mainz, while Zidane opted to rest most of his starters against Eibar.
Over the weekend, Real Sociedad reignited Real's title hopes by defeating Barcelona just hours after Real pummeled Eibar at home. Now only four points adrift of Barcelona, the La Liga title chase is back on, but Real's top priority remains the same: advance in the Champions League. The Bernabéu will be buzzing, and the matchup remains a good one for Real Madrid. 90 minutes separates Real from a sixth straight semifinal appearance, but Wolfsburg will have other ideas. Keep an eye on the Frenchmen's health, as both Karim Benzema and Raphaël Varane will be critical to this match.
Wolfsburg: Benaglio; Ricardo Rodríguez, Dante, Knoche, Träsch; Guilavogui, Arnold; Schürrle, Draxler, Vieirinha; Kruse
Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Marcelo, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal; Casemiro, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo
Managing Madrid staff predictions:
Kiyan Sobhani: Real Madrid 2-1 Wolfsburg
Jared Allen: Real Madrid 3-0 Wolfsburg
Kevin Nobles: Real Madrid 3-0 Wolfsburg
Timm Higgins: Real Madrid 2-0 Wolfsburg, followed by penalty shootout which lasts until the sun folds in on itself.
Om Arvind: Real Madrid 2-0 Wolfsburg: Decided on penalties; Real Madrid 3 - 1 Wolfsburg
Nate Bauer: Real Madrid 4-1 Wolfsburg
Mike Platania: Real Madrid 4-0 Wolfsburg