Real Madrid host RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday as they look to keep their 100% start to the season going.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have done away with every opponent in their path this season but have looked a little shaky without the services of injured talisman Karim Benzema who, like Eder Militao and Lucas Vazquez, will miss this one.
With that in mind, here’s how Ancelotti could set up.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – Is Courtois the best goalkeeper in the world these days? According to FIFA 23, he is.
RB: Dani Carvajal – With Vazquez injured, Carvajal has little competition for his starting role aside from the lesser-spotted Alvaro Odriozola.
CB: Antonio Rudiger – No Militao means Rudiger, who opened his Real account at the weekend, should retain his spot.
CB: David Alaba – Alaba has flipped between centre-back and left-back this season but is likely to remain in his central role for this one.
LB: Ferland Mendy – Mendy’s struggles on the attacking end continue to irk a number of Real fans.
DM: Aurelien Tchouameni – €100m looks like a bargain for this kid. Tchouameni has provided the perfect end to the Casemiro era.
CM: Luka Modric- A Rolls Royce of a footballer, Modric is as classy as they come. Still influencing games at 37.
CM: Toni Kroos – With just one year remaining on his contract, reports have started linking Kroos with a move to the Premier League with Manchester City.
RW: Federico Valverde – Ancelotti has been loving Valverde in this advanced role in European games and could deploy the versatile Uruguayan up there once again.
ST: Rodrygo – Eden Hazard didn’t impress against Mallorca in this false-nine role but Rodrygo came on and changed the game. That sort of thing doesn’t go unnoticed by Ancelotti.
LW: Vinicius Junior – The spotlight is on Vinicius amid public complaints that opponents are trying to kick him onto the treatment table.
Lionel Messi breaks two Champions League records against Maccabi Haifa
Lionel Messi’s goal against Maccabi Haifa saw him set two new Champions League records.
It wasn’t an easy night in Israel for Messi and PSG by any means, with the home side taking a shock lead 24 minutes in courtesy of Tjaronn Chery.
However, they couldn’t stay in front for long with Messi getting his team an equaliser just 13 minutes later.
He spread the ball out wide to Kylian Mbappe who got to the byline and played it back, giving the Argentinian an easy finish from well inside the box. The goal proved to be the start of PSG’s comeback, with the French side going on to win 3-1, and that wasn’t the only reason it was significant.
With his goal, Messi scored against his 39th different club in the Champions League, setting a new record in the process.
Before that, he and long-term Cristiano Ronaldo were level on 38, and with Ronaldo not playing in the Champions League this season, the record is now set to be Messi’s for quite some time.
That wasn’t the only record the 35-year-old secured on Wednesday as Messi has now scored in 18 consecutive Champions League campaigns – every year since 2005/06 – accomplishing a feat never seen before.
Perhaps the biggest record – most Champions League goals – still eludes him, with Ronaldo scoring 14 more, and it seems unlikely he’ll be able to make up such a margin before he retires, but it would take a brave man to put it past him.
Borussia Dortmund couldn’t stop me
Erling Haaland has praised Borussia Dortmund for how they defended against Manchester City, but was keen to point out that they still couldn’t find a way to stop him.
Man City struggled to break the Bundesliga side down in what was an eventual 2-1 Champions League win on Wednesday, not having a single shot on target until John Stones’ 80th minute effort.
That shot on target was also their first goal, and their second one was the winner, with Haaland volleying his team to victory.
The Norwegian praised the way his former team played and defended but issued a reminder that it wasn’t enough to stop him.
When told by an interview on BT Sport that BVB ‘clearly know how to stop you’, Haaland replied: “They didn’t stop me, I scored!
“But yeah, they played well and they were good, and I was quite sure I was going to be followed all game because they know me very well.
“Dortmund were really good today, and in the end, the three points is what matters.”
Haaland’s goal was one of the best he’s scored, with the striker lifting his leg extremely high to turn in a stunning cross from Joao Cancelo.
The team’s first one wasn’t bad either, with Stones firing in from outside the box, but Haaland joked that his was the better of the two.
“Yeah, two wonderful goals today. I think mine was a bit better, honestly,” he added.
The 22-year-old now has just one goal less than Luis Suarez in the Champions League and only four fewer than Wayne Rooney.
Pep Guardiola lauds ‘exceptional’ Jude Bellingham after stellar Champions League outing
Pep Guardiola was full of praise for the “exceptional” Jude Bellingham after he impressed in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League.
The 19-year-old had put Dortmund on course for a surprise win at the Etihad Stadium when he headed home Marco Reus’ centre just before the hour mark, but the Bundesliga giants were unable to hold on as late goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland turned the tide in City’s favour.
Nevertheless, Dortmund were impressive in their defensive shape throughout the 90 minutes, as well as causing problems on the counter, and Bellingham was one of the more impressive performers on the night.
Mixing finesse on the ball with wonderful vision and instinctive reading of the game, Bellingham out-duelled the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan for large periods, and showed why he’s one of the most highly-rated teenagers in world football.
Liverpool are long-term admirers of Bellingham, but judging by Guardiola’s comments after the game, there’s every chance City may look to sign the England international when the time comes for him to leave Dortmund.
“I was impressed two seasons ago when he was 17. Now he’s 19… he was good at 17, imagine now at 19,” Guardiola said of Bellingham. “He’s able to follow [Ilkay] Gundogan, Kevin [De Bruyne], win the duels, transitions are fast, to have the sense in the box for the goal he scored.
“So yes, an exceptional player. I think everybody knows it, not because the manager of Manchester City says it, everybody knows it.”
Bellingham’s manager at Dortmund, Edin Terzic, was equally full of praise for his display on the night, telling the assembled media: “Jude, like all the other players, gave a great performance in offensive and defensive terms.
“He blocked so any passes and crosses and also got forward… once again, he was very good against Manchester City.”
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