Real Madrid finished the job by defeating Chelsea 2-0 again for a 4-0 aggregate score, and have reached the Champions League semi-finals for the 11th time in 13 seasons. That’s an incredible stat and there’s so much to discuss, from the pre-match questions that were answered to the questions we now have ahead of the semi-finals.
1. Do Real Madrid now have a ‘Gala XI’?
Real Madrid hadn’t really had a fixed starting XI for large stretches of this season, but that started to change after Ancelotti repeated the same line-up in the Copa del Rey Clásico second leg and the Chelsea first leg. If the coach repeated the same starting XI here, that would surely confirm that this is the new ‘Gala XI’, as they call it in Spain. And, that’s exactly what happened. For the third big game in a row, it was Courtois, Carvajal, Militão, Alaba, Camavinga, Valverde, Kroos, Modrić, Rodrygo, Benzema and Vinícius. That’s the unit that the coaching staff clearly trusts the most, and with good reason.
2. Would Rodrygo justify his selection?
The member of the ‘Gala XI’ who is probably the 11th name on the team sheet is surely Rodrygo. We’ve seen all season how Ancelotti was reluctant to keep the Brazilian in the team, even when he was playing at his best, but the Brazilian is being trusted more and more and scored his 12th and 13th goals here to repay his coach’s trust in him. Even if the assists helped make his goals, Rodrygo was involved himself in creating for his teammates during his 82 minutes on the pitch. The Brazilian more than earned his spot in the starting XI.
3. How would Courtois do on his latest return to Stamford Bridge?
This was Courtois’ third return to Stamford Bridge since he left the club in 2018 and the second with fans there to keep up their ritual of booing him when he had the ball. But, we already saw last year that the boos didn’t bother the Belgian. Remember his incredible – for its brilliance and importance – save against Azpilicueta in the first leg last season? Would we see more of the same here? Well yes, we did. His save against Cucurella in first-half stoppage time shouldn’t be underestimated. If Chelsea score there, then it’s an entirely second leg, but the No.1 stood tall once more and led the way for Real Madrid to reach the semi-finals.
1. Bayern or Manchester City?
Now that Real Madrid are into the next round, the obvious question is who do Madridistas want next? Bayern Munich or Manchester City? You might think that it’s a moot point after the 3-0 first leg in the Etihad, but we’ve all seen Guardiola and City throw away big leads in the Champions League before. In last year’s semi-finals, for example. And it’s because of last season’s tie that many Real Madrid fans might prefer another shot at City, over the prospect of having to visit the Allianz Arena for the second leg.
2. How will Real Madrid cope without the suspended Militão and the possibly injured Alaba?
Whoever Real Madrid face in the semi-finals, they’ll have to enter the first leg without Militão after he picked up another booking in this game at Stamford Bridge. Yellow cards are wiped between the quarters and the semis, but any suspension already picked up still counts, so the Brazilian is out for the game at the Bernabéu on the 9th or 10th of May. On top of that, David Alaba’s substitution in this game was for an injury niggle, so we’ll have to see if he makes it back in time. How will Los Blancos cope without one or both of tonight’s starting centre-backs? Well, with Nacho and Rüdiger, the drop-off isn’t drastic and both the German and the Spaniard are warriors too. Real Madrid should be just fine.
3. Is this already enough for Ancelotti to keep his job?
Thinking bigger picture, has Ancelotti already done enough to keep his job? He has won two of the mini trophies in the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, and could still win the major trophies that are the Copa del Rey and Champions League. But, even if Los Blancos don’t go on to retain the Champions League, by reaching the final four this can already be considered at least a B+ European campaign. And, considering Ancelotti won the double just last season, he might be allowed to stay on even if Real Madrid now fall in the UCL semis. In any case, he isn’t thinking about that. He’ll be confident of going all the away again.