The Open Thread/Daily Merengue is a place where you can discuss anything and everything related to football. Feel free to discuss the topics presented here, or start your very own discussions! The Open thread will be posted every day by one of the mods: Valyrian Steel, Felipejack, YoSnail, Ezek Ix or NeRObutBlanco.
All eyes turn today to the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano for the second leg of this strange year’s UCL round of 16. Take care of any errands, clear the schedules and get the refreshments ready for this match (4:00 PM EST/ 20:00 CET)!
The 19 man squad has been sent out:
Casemiro will be out due to yellow card accumulation, which raises the questions of how Los Blancos will line-up and who will come in. Zidane had this to say about Casemiro being out:
You’ll see how we’re going to play tomorrow. Casemiro won’t be with us but there are other players who will do well. I’m not worried about these things. It’s always going to happen because of injury, bans or other factors. We have to be aware that there are other players and we’re going to put in a great performance with other players.
Most accounts seem to place Fede Valverde in for Casemiro, although when he plays for Real Madrid it is rarely in the role of protecting the space in front of the centerbacks or of sitting deep in any form. If there is a midfielder who is inserted into the lineup with a free, roaming role ahead of Kroos and Modric, it tends to be Isco. This would in any event be a momentous opportunity for the young Uruguayan midfielder to demonstrate his ability to be an integral part of Real Madrid’s midfield in the present and the future.
In the first leg, as we recall, Los Blancos were without Karim Benzema and captain Sergio Ramos. Zidane started Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio up front, with Isco in a free role behind them and typically on the left side of the pitch. Atalanta began the game with their characteristic press and forward energy, but this was impressively neutralized by the high tempo, slick possession game of Kroos, Modric, et al. Mendy was afforded a number of opportunities to carry the football forward throughout the game. With the changes in personnel it is precarious to predict how the teams will approach this match. Atalanta is now coming to the home turf of Los Blancos, requiring an away goal to draw even. Will they embrace their characteristic high intensity, open game? The two clubs’ approaches and setups will absolutely be part of the chess-match to bear in mind.
Final preparations were being made on Monday as you can watch in this 15 minute segment of training.
Benzema and Zidane spoke to the press on Monday
Cristiano Ronaldo transfer gossip
According to Jose Felix Diaz of MARCA, there is substance behind this talk of an offer that Jorge Mendes, CR7’s high profile Portuguese agent, has made to Real Madrid, but this does not somehow scuttle Real Madrid’s overall approach to transfers.
Jorge Mendes’ offer of a possible return to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for Cristiano Ronaldo has changed none of that.
The club maintains a special relationship with their all-time top goalscorer. No one has forgotten what he achieved during nine years in the Spanish capital.
In February 2018, player and club decided to part ways, with Ronaldo choosing Juventus as the next step in his career. So far, he hasn’t found what he was looking for in Turin.
As for Real Madrid, their policy remains recruiting and developing young players, not re-signing ageing stars of the past.
Some recent messages on Twitter from the players
(Translation: See you Tuesday! Congratulations my brother)