Real Madrid will face off against Borussia Monchengladbach in a make-or-break game in Group B of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night.
Real Madrid will lock horns with Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in their final group game of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League, knowing that anything less than a victory would send them packing from the tournament.
It has been a strange sort of start to the season for Real Madrid, who have struggled to hit top gear as of yet, although they did manage to pick up a much-needed 1-0 win against Sevilla in La Liga this past weekend. Heading into the game, Real Madrid are third in Group B, a point below leaders Gladbach and level with Shakhtar Donetsk in second.
A win would secure a place in the knockout stages for Real Madrid. However, a defeat would spell an end to their Champions League campaign, which could call into question Zinedine Zidane’s future at the club, while a draw would leave them needing Inter Milan to beat Shakhtar Donestk in the other Group B game on the night.
Gladbach, who are atop the group standings, could still miss out on qualification to the next round if they fall to a defeat on Wednesday and Inter pick up a win in their game. So, Marco Rose & co., who head into the match on the back of a 2-2 draw against SC Freiburg in Bundesliga, will be determined to grab at least a point from Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
The reverse fixture, played at Borussia-Park, saw Real Madrid come back from two goals down to salvage a point, as late goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro cancelled out a Marcus Thuram brace. And ahead of their latest fixture this midweek, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Real Madrid’s injury issues seem to be letting off at last, as the Merengues have welcomed captain Sergio Ramos and fellow defender Dani Carvajal back into the fold for when Gladbach come visiting. However, they continue to be without Eden Hazard and Federico Valverde, while Martin Odegaard is a doubt as well, after missing team training on Monday due to a leg problem.
Real Madrid ought to line up in Zidane’s preferred 4-3-3 setup, with Thibaut Courtois guarding the goal. He will need to be at the top of his game against a free-scoring Gladbach unit.
The returning Carvajal should slot in at right-back while Ferland Mendy should get the nod on the left. Raphael Varane, who had a horror show in the last Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk, will be out to redeem himself and will be helped by the return of his captain, Ramos, alongside him at the heart of the Real Madrid defence.
Casemiro will hold the fort down in the middle of the park, while the onus of creating chances will fall on the shoulders of veteran midfield duo Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Isco could be an option that Zidane might call upon if things do not go as per plans for the home team.
In attack, Karim Benzema is a certainty through the middle, while Vinicius Junior should get the nod on the left after impressing against Sevilla at the weekend. On the right flank, Marco Asensio could edge Rodrygo Goes and Lucas Vazquez out for the starting berth.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius
Gladbach will continue to be without the services of Ramy Bensebaini after he tested positive for coronavirus while Jonas Hofmann also remains out with a thigh injury. Manager Marco Rose will also be sweating over the fitness of Nico Elvedi, with there being a slim chance that the Swiss defender is available for selection on Wednesday.
The visitors will set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper and captain Yann Sommer. The seasoned shot-stopper will be shielded by the centre-back duo of Matthias Ginter and Tony Jantschke in Elvedi’s potential absence, although the option of using midfielder Christoph Kramer at the back is also something that Rose could consider.
Stefan Lainer is a certainty on the right side of the four-man backline while Oscar Wendt should slot in on the left in the absence of Bensebaini.
Florian Neuhaus and Kramer should ideally form the two-man midfield axis for Gladbach against Real Madrid, although Denis Zakaria, who is on the radars of Manchester United and Manchester City, could come into the side, in case Kramer starts as a centre-back.
Lars Stindl is a certain starter in the no. 10 role, where he will look to play off of star striker Alassane Plea. The threat from the wide areas will come from Valentino Lazaro and Real Madrid’s tormentor in the reverse fixture, Marcus Thuram.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Jantschke, Wendt; Kramer, Neuhaus; Lazaro, Stindl, Thuram; Plea
- Real Madrid have only lost one of their previous five meetings with Borussia Monchengladbach in European competitions. However, they have also only won one of those games, with three ending in draws.
- This will be Borussia Monchengladbach’s first away game against Real Madrid in European competitions since December 1985, when they lost 0-4 in the second leg of the Last 16 stages of the UEFA Cup.
- The previous five games between Real Madrid and Borussia Monchengladbach have seen 20 goals scored. Both teams have netted 10 goals in total against each other.
- Real Madrid have lost four of their last seven UEFA Champions League matches (W2 D1). They only lost five of their first 39 games under Zinedine Zidane in the competition (W25 D9).
- Gladbach are looking to reach the UEFA Champions League knockout phase for the first time at the third attempt, having failed in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Player to Watch
Alassane Pléa in the Champions League this season:
👕 5 appearances
⚽️ 5 goals
🅰️ 3 assists
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 1, 2020
The Borussia Monchengladbach attacker has been one of the most in-form players in the UEFA Champions League this season. In five appearances so far, Plea has been directly involved in eight goals (5 goals, 3 assists), averaging a goal-involvement every 45 minutes.
The 27-year-old has scored two or more goals in two starts in a row, against Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan, respectively – a feat that has been achieved by two Frenchmen in the past, David Trezeguet (2003, Juventus) and Karim Benzema (2019, Real Madrid).
Plea, with his ability to score along with his link-up with fellow attacker Marcus Thuram, will pose the biggest threat to Real Madrid’s hopes of making it through to the next round. Los Blancos will need to ensure that the Frenchman is kept quiet on Wednesday night.
Real Madrid 3-2 Borussia Monchengladbach
Borussia Monchengladbach are the joint top-scorers in this season’s UEFA Champions League with 16 goals, alongside Bayern Munich and Barcelona. They have scored two or more goals in six of their last seven matches in all competitions and each of their five European encounters this term.
Even though Real Madrid will welcome back Sergio Ramos, they might find it difficult to contain the combined threat posed by Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram. At the same time, the Bundesliga outfit have not exactly been the most secure unit at the back, conceding late goals against Real Madrid and Inter Milan in Europe this term, thereby setting up an entertaining contest.
Considering that everything is on the line for Real Madrid here, expect Zinedine Zidane’s men to pull no punches at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. With their backs against the wall, Los Blancos‘ big-game experience could play a major factor on Wednesday, helping them eke out a hard-fought win and safe passage to the next round.