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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win over Celtic

The talking points from the Bernabéu as Real Madrid win the group.

Real Madrid v Celtic - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Real Madrid have won Champions League Group F and they’ve done so by thrashing Celtic 5-1, to finish the group stage with 13 points. It was a dominant performance and one that answered a few pre-match questions, while we’ve now got some new post-match questions to look at.

Three answers

1. Would Ancelotti break Ferguson’s record tonight?

He couldn’t manage it last week in Leipzig, but Carlo Ancelotti had another chance here to become the coach with the most victories since the Champions League started in 1992. And, he achieved it. By winning his 103rd Champions League match as a manager, he overtook Alex Ferguson, ironically doing so against a Scottish team. The Italian’s first win in this tournament came back in 1997 against Parma, when four members of tonight’s starting line-up weren’t even born. The success and longevity are incredible.

2. Benzema was back in the squad, but would he play?

Ahead of the match, we saw that Karim Benzema was back in a Real Madrid squad for the first time since the Elche match two weeks ago. But, would he actually play? Well, yes, he came on in the 64th minute. We know that he and Real Madrid were taking no risks, so the fact he was introduced when he wasn’t even needed, as the team were already up 4-0, is a great sign. That means Benzema is back and looking to get up to speed again with the final couple of pre-World Cup matches. He certainly didn’t look at his sharpest here, but will have a few more days to recover before Rayo Vallecano on Monday.

3. How would Stephanie Frappart do in this historic match?

History was made at the Bernabéu this Wednesday night as Stephanie Frappart became the first female referee to take charge of a senior Real Madrid men’s match. This was just her second ever Champions League game, after the Frenchwoman had previously whistled a Juventus vs Dynamo Kyiv in 2020, while she had also been in charge of the 2019 UEFA Super Cup and six men’s Europa League fixtures. So, how would she do on what was a big night in her career? Well, she had a very busy first half in terms of penalties, awarding two to Real Madrid for early handballs, immediately calling the first one and then needing VAR for the second. Then came a penalty for Celtic, called on Ferland Mendy. Even though he got a bit of the ball, it probably was a foul, but Thibaut Courtois came up with a big save anyway. The second half was far calmer from her point of view, so it was a good job overall.

Three questions

1. Who can Real Madrid get in the last 16 draw?

So, Real Madrid have finished first in the group and we can start looking ahead to the last 16 draw, which will take place on Monday. At the time of writing, the rest of this Wednesday’s fixtures haven’t started yet, but we already know that Borussia Dortmund are second no matter what happens tonight, and therefore a possible opponent for Los Blancos, and that Liverpool, Club Brugge, Inter Milan and Eintracht Frankfurt all finished second when their groups were completed last night. The other two possible opponents will be one of PSG or Benfica and one of AC Milan or Red Bull Salzburg. Obviously Liverpool, PSG and the two Milan teams stand out, but Real Madrid are capable of beating anybody. And, perhaps the most important part of finishing first, is that they’re guaranteed the second leg at home in the next round.

2. What was said to Vinícius at half time?

This was a strange Vinícius game. In the first half, he had a poor performance and, more than anything, made poor decisions. There were three Vini moments that stood out to me in the first half. One was when he performed a nice nutmeg, but then immediately slung the ball out for a throw-in because he wasn’t looking. Another was when he tried a rainbow flick into the penalty area, when the chances of it working in that specific situation were minimal. Then, he had the chance that he skied over the bar, when he seemed to be running away to celebrate before even realising he’d missed. With all three, it was almost as if he was thinking about how to look good more than how to be good. But, his attitude and, therefore, his play was much better in the 20 minutes he played of the second half. He played much more for his teammates and then put in the effort to get on the end of Valverde’s cross for the latest Fede-Vini combo. As he went off as a substitute, Ancelotti gave him a big and lengthy hug. You wonder if the Italian had a word with the Brazilian at half time.

3. How many Celtic fans were there inside the Bernabéu?

I got to the Bernabéu around 45 minutes before kick-off and already then there were green shirts everywhere, and not just in the 2,000 seats of the away end. With this being one of Real Madrid’s less important matches of the season and with a kick-off time of 18:45, when much of the capital is still at work, there were a lot of home end seats available and the Celtic fans snapped up as many as they could. In the end, it wasn’t quite like what we saw in Barcelona vs Eintracht Frankfurt, since most Real Madrid socios who couldn’t attend just left their seat empty, rather than renting out their season ticket. But, the estimates are that there were around 10,000 Celtic fans in the city and around half of them made it inside the stadium, though there’s no clear number on that. It made for a really great atmosphere, with both sets of fans chanting back and forth throughout the 90 minutes. That’s the beauty of football, even in a match without much on the line.

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