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Open Thread: March 17, 2021

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Our Wednesday issue of the Daily Merengue!

Real Madrid v Atalanta - UEFA Champions League Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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.

Real Madrid Are Through to the Round of 8!

The key storyline has to be that Vinicius Junior was a monster in a big game for Real Madrid. From winning the ball in the defensive third to terrorizing defenders by running at them, if he keeps this up the future will only be bright. This day is a strong foundation for the young player’s confidence and hence for the team. He provided something that Real Madrid have direly needed all season: someone who is like a magnet for the opposition goal and looks for danger at any moment.

Here’s Vini talking after the match:

However, let’s check out what others considered to be the keys to the game.

Robert Husby noted the how the input from the substitutions was effective along with the entire team, which is ultimately down to Zinedine Zidane:

Real Madrid put forth a total team effort. Such as Nacho who was all over the pitch and great defensively again tonight. Even the subs like Rodrygo who had himself a great run and a near goal. Zidane tactically outclassed Gasperini, who has been touted as a masterful tactician himself in his time at the helm of Atalanta. Real should be very pleased with their performance tonight and should be heading into the next draw with a good deal of confidence.

Euan McTear was impressed by the tactical setup Zidane chose to go with, which was a bold move in this large of a stage:

Zidane went with a back three system for Saturday’s match against Elche and many of us – myself most definitely included – thought it was simply a circumstantial tactic. But, there was a chance that Zidane had been using the Elche game as a dress rehearsal for deploying this formation in this Champions League game. And that’s exactly what happened. This was the big surprise from the line-ups announcement. I think it caught so many by surprise because Zidane had previously used it against more defensive teams as a means of getting the full-backs very far forward. In other words, as an attacking tactic. In this game, though, Real Madrid had a lead and were facing a team who will always leave spaces in defence. Playing a back three instead of a back four probably wasn’t necessary, but it was ambitious.

At MARCA, Juan Ignacio G-Ochoa was another impressed with how the team was handled from a managerial point of view:

Real Madrid are into the quarter finals of the Champions League once more, as Zinedine Zidane continues to prove he was made to coach at this level.

The Frenchman deployed a formation with three centre-backs in the second leg against Atalanta, with the hosts seeing the game out with relative ease.

He also noted the monumental influence of Luka Modric in this game:

Luka Modric, doesn’t ever retire

The Croatian put on another exhibition against Atalanta. He first half was exceptional, dictating the play for his team and stopping that of the opposition. It was he who pounced on Marco Sportiello’s mistake to set Karim Benzema up for the opener.

Alfredo Relaño of AS commented on the overall significance of this achievement for this season of Real Madrid, which is doing so without the blockbuster signings:

An empty, windy Di Stéfano stadium saw Real Madrid head into the Champions League quarter-finals, which is the equivalent of ensuring pass marks in this edition of Europe’s premier club football tournament. Atalanta ended up on the end of a resounding 4-1 aggregate scoreline. Getting to the last eight was more than might have been expected after the side’s disastrous start in the group stage. But Zidane, with his easy-going, steady style, has since been producing results based around the efforts of his old guard, with little help from the new signings. From them the exception has to be made for Vinicius, who once again ran around like mad and created danger, although he failed to finish the chances he made.

Some reactions from the players and others on Twitter

UCL posted an image asking which one: Luka Modric or Toni Kroos. Both players responded:

The boss himself was calm, technical and humble as always:

Rafa Varane’s eyes are forward:

Captain Ramos and Lucas Vázquez seemed to be having a good time of some sort: