El Centrocampista

Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid: Three Observations


Real Madrid secured their progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League with an entertaining 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Ethiad Stadium on Wednesday night. After Benzema capitalised on poor marking by the Manchester City defence to open the scoring, the Spanish side missed a whole host of chances to put the game to bed, before the home side rallied in the second half and Sergio Aguero equalised from the penalty spot after Alvaro Arbeloa was dismissed for his second yellow card.

Overall it was job done for Jose Mourinho’s side and they finish runners up in the group behind an impressive Borussia Dortmund side. A couple of observations:

Kingpin Khedira

With all the star studded names that currently adorn Real Madrid’s side the name and indeed role of Sami Khedira is one that at times goes unnoticed. He may not be flash and he may not score many goals, but his role in the Jose Mourinho’s side is one that is vastly important. Combined with his central midfielder partner Xavi Alonso, the pair effortlessly controlled the central midfield area and gave the likes of Ronaldo and Di Maria a solid defensive base on which to launch attack after attack.

The duo complements each other perfectly with the quarterback like composure of the Spaniard Alonso acting as the perfect foil to the out and out energy of Khedira. The fact that the attacking threat of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure was significant in its absence just highlights the stronghold grip that the pair held. So often given license to gallop forward, the former Barcelona man had to settle for playing it out wide to Maicon for the home side’s main attacking threat.

The dynamic German covered virtually every blade of the Ethiad Stadium pitch and acted as a shield to a Real Madrid back four that has often come under scrutiny. Not just content to play as a defensive midfielder, the 25 year old was also a prominent figure in the Real Madrid attack with his desire to be an ultimate box to box player always evident. He may very rarely receive the headlines and plaudits, but his job is one that has contributed to recent Real Madrid success.

Work Rate

Perhaps on a somewhat related theme one thing that was notable on Wednesday was the infectious high work rate of the Real Madrid players. Simply put, boss Jose Mourinho demands nothing less. While the stereotype of ‘Galacticos’ will always hang over the Bernabeu, it is worth noting that none of these Real Madrid stars are shy of putting a shift in. Even Angel Di Maria who has sometimes been accused of being lacking when it comes to defensive duties, limited the amount of space that the Manchester City fullbacks had down the left hand side.

It seems to me that the Argentine is a perfect case of a boy who is gradually becoming a man, both in a physical and mental state. As a team Real Madrid hunted in packs. It is well known that there arch rivals in Catalan have a policy of ensuring they win the ball back within five seconds of losing it but Real Madrid too must not have been far off achieving this on Wednesday night, especially in that first half. It is a well known theory that you rest when your team has the ball, but simply put such was the pressure that Real Madrid exerted, Roberto Mancini’s men never had chance to settle and regroup.

Stay on your feet

Diving, play acting, call it what you will, but one disappointing element of Real Madrid’s play on Wednesday was their insistence to experience the under soil heating at the Ethiad on an all too regular basis. They are not the only team to do it – in fact you could probably argue that Sergio Aguero made the most of the penalty – but sadly it seems to have been the first option for a lot – not all – of the Real Madrid players, much to the frustration of a partisan home crowd.

Until the authorities clamp down hard on it, it is always going to be a feature of the modern game, but when you have the quality and skill of the Real Madrid players, it can leave an unnecessary bitter taste in the mouth.

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