They did it! Real Madrid came back from a 1-0 deficit and then a 2-0 deficit to defeat PSG 3-2 thanks to a Karim Benzema hat-trick, moving on to the next round of the Champions League. It was a fascinating tie overall and an incredible final half hour from Real Madrid. So, let’s analyse it here by looking at three pre-match questions we had, plus three new post-match ones that have come up as a result of this victory and quarter-final qualification.
1. To trust in Ancelotti or not?
Maybe Carlo Ancelotti is a genius. Maybe… The very negative approach to the first leg looked terrible at the time, but Ancelotti’s gameplan of playing a low block and simply hoping to keep the first leg score down ended up working. Without the away goals rule, a 1-0 defeat was actually a good result and meant Real Madrid could face PSG in front of their home crowd knowing that any type of win would at least force extra time. Despite falling behind in the second leg too, Real Madrid were still in the tie and each of Ancelotti’s substitutions for the final half hour worked perfectly. Each of Lucas Vázquez, Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga was an improvement on the player they replaced and the Italian coach ended up overseeing yet another special European Cup victory, his 114th in this competition between his playing and coaching career.
2. How would the Bernabéu receive Mbappé?
Kylian Mbappé was logically one of the pre-match talking points. With the French forward likely to join Real Madrid in the summer, the big question was about how he’d be received. When his name was read out before the match, there was a huge cheer. But, after that, the Bernabéu crowd focused on the current Real Madrid players and no longer backed Mbappé. They cheered every little victory Dani Carvajal had against the Frenchman – even though there weren’t many – while they whistled the No.7 just like they did the other PSG players.
3. Keylor or Donnarumma?
Mauricio Pochettino has been rotating his goalkeepers all season, switching between Keylor Navas and Gianluigi Donnarumma. It still wasn’t clear who he’d opt for here, but he ultimately decided to play Donnarumma. The Italian made a big mistake to allow Real Madrid their first goal of the night and, almost more significantly, to allow them to believe again. It’s easy to say with hindsight that playing Keylor Navas would have been better, but Madridistas know more than anyone how the Costa Rican thrived on those big European nights. Here, Donnarumma most certainly did not.
1. So, was Casemiro’s suspension worth it?
Casemiro was suspended for this game and that was a problem since Toni Kroos clearly wasn’t 100 percent as he filled in for the Brazilian. But, maybe Casemiro’s suspension was worth it. When the Brazilian asked Ancelotti during the penultimate group game at Sheriff Tiraspol if he should deliberately get a booking in order to only miss the final group game vs Inter, Ancelotti said “no”. The reason was that he wanted Casemiro vs Inter, a match that would decide first place and second place, but with qualification already settled. In the end, having Casemiro for that Inter game and winning the group paid off. Sure, Real Madrid faced a tough opponent in PSG, but winning the group was important because of this key reason: they had the second leg at home. Having the home fans for the most important and final moments of a European tie is priceless. That second leg home advantage might even have been worth the Casemiro absence.
So, what happened with Casemiro, Ancelotti and the possible yellow card suspension in Tiraspol?— Euan McTear (@emctear) November 25, 2021
A quick thread on a curious exchange
2. Can Benzema make the Real Madrid Mount Rushmore?
It got lost in the madness, but Karim Benzema overtook Alfredo Di Stéfano’s Real Madrid scoring tally in this game. Di Stéfano netted 308 official goals during his career with the capital city side, while Benzema hit his 307th, 308th and 309th against PSG to match and overtake the club legend. Now we need to start talking about Benzema as one of the greatest of the Real Madrid all-time greats. If there was a Real Madrid Mount Rushmore, who would be on it? Probably not Benzema yet, but he’s putting himself in that conversation.
3. Benfica in the next round?
This tie, of course, was supposed to be against Benfica and not PSG, only for UEFA to mess up the draw and require a do-over. There was anger among some Real Madrid fans when the re-run paired them with PSG, but now that the Ligue 1 leaders have been eliminated, that’s one fewer challenger for the trophy. There’s actually now a good chance that Real Madrid will have an easier opponent in the quarter-finals than they did in the last 16. They might even get Benfica next in the quarters, if the Portuguese side overcome Ajax. That would be an interesting twist of fate if that happens.