The year was not meant to be. Real Madrid was eliminated from the 2022/23 Champions League after taking a beating at The Etihad, where Manchester City defeated them 4-0 in the second leg of the semifinal match. There is a lot to discuss, and we do so here in the form of three pre-game queries that were rapidly addressed and three brand new discussions that we’ll hold over the next several days and weeks.
1. Could Real Madrid break through The Etihad’s defenses?
The primary distinction between this year’s semifinal and last year’s was that Real Madrid’s second leg was played away from home. How significant is that? We knew it would be difficult even before the game because Manchester City had won all 14 of their home games in 2023 while scoring 49 goals and allowing just seven. Real Madrid had never won on any of their four prior trips to The Etihad, according to their own record there. In the 2012/13 groups, they drew 1–1, drew 0-0 in the 2015/16 semifinal first leg, lost 2-1 in the 2019/20 last 16 second leg, and then lost 4–3 in the semifinal first leg of the previous season. Real Madrid suffered a resounding 4-0 defeat tonight, and it became clear pretty immediately that they weren’t going to be able to penetrate the defense that The Etihad has developed into.
2. Could Carvajal and Camavinga top their performance from the previous week?
One of the pleasant shocks for Real Madrid in the first leg was the way their fullbacks played, as Eduardo Camavinga intercepted Bernardo Silva and Dani Carvajal forced Jack Grealish to leave the game. Could they say that again? Okay, no. Nowhere near. In this second leg, Grealish had it all to himself with Carvajal, at times virtually playing the seasoned Spaniard. The first two goals were scored by Bernardo Silva, who was on the other side and dragged Camavinga in different directions and out of position. There are numerous reasons why City outplayed Real Madrid in this second leg, but their victory in the winger vs fullback match up this time stands out.
3. Was it the proper decision to left Rüdiger on the bench?
It was clarified in the pre-game news conference that Antonio Rüdiger would start despite much uncertainty in the lead up to this game. Despite the German’s impressive first leg attempts to stop Haaland, Ancelotti ultimately made the decision to sideline him, switching back to the central defense pairing of David Alaba and Éder Milito from the previous season. Was this the best choice? Haaland, though, was much more energetic in this match and forced Courtois to make two outstanding saves early on, the second of which was perhaps among the greatest Champions League saves ever.
But even without a goal from Haaland, City took the lead in the first half. Could Rüdiger have performed better at the two Bernardo Silva goals than Alaba or Milito? We’ll never be able to be certain. However, it was noteworthy because Ancelotti substituted Rüdiger as the first player to come on. Though a portion of this was done to make room for Camavinga, it’s possible that this move was an admission that the German most likely deserved to start.
1. What is Courtois likely thinking about?
Thibaut Courtois, a member of Real Madrid, was the only player to perform at his peak level today. The Belgian had to remove the ball from his net four times, but he still made some great stops, including his second and third stops on Haaland. What must he have been contemplating both during and after this game? Though capable of the job, he could only watch in dread as wave after wave of light blue onslaught kept coming in the direction of his objective.
2. Is bringing Bellingham in enough?
Real Madrid’s season is now basically gone despite having four LaLiga games left after this loss. What therefore needs to happen with this squad as we look ahead to the summer? How much modification is required? Jude Bellingham’s arrival will it be sufficient for Real Madrid, or will they also need to add other great players? Few people would agree with Ancelotti’s assertion that the present team is already capable of winning another Champions League when he was questioned about it in the post match press conference.
3. Was Real Madrid’s 2022/2023 season profitable enough for Ancelotti to remain?
Was Real Madrid’s 2022/23 season, seen as a whole, good enough for Ancelotti to remain? He is convinced that he will complete his contract, which is valid until the summer of 2024, and cites the fact that just making it to the semifinals of the Champions League was a remarkable feat. Real Madrid did win the UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, and Copa del Rey, and we shouldn’t forget that the Copa del Rey victory included a 4-0 victory at the Camp Nou, despite the LaLiga championship defense being extremely subpar, if not nonexistent. That and the achievement from the previous season may be reason enough for Ancelotti to continue.