Real Madrid will have their sights set on the top spot in Group D when they face off against FC Sheriff Tiraspol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.
The top two in the Group D of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League will square off at the Santiago Bernabeu this midweek as second-placed Real Madrid play hosts to surprise leaders and minnows FC Sheriff Tiraspol.
Real Madrid have made a solid start to the new season under the management of new boss Carlo Ancelotti. Sitting at the top of the La Liga table after seven games, Los Blancos are yet to lose a game in the new campaign domestically and in Europe, where they began their journey with a narrow 1-0 win over Inter Milan last week. And, they will be hoping to keep that record intact and bag another victory which would make them the group leaders.
Sheriff Tiraspol made history when they became the first-ever Moldovan club to qualify for the UEFA Champions League after seeing off challenges from Teuta, Alashkert, Crvena Zvezda and Dinamo Zagreb in the qualifiers. To everyone’s surprise, they picked up an unlikely 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in their debut UCL clash, which sent them to the top of Group D. They head into Tuesday’s game on the back of huge wins over Floresti (4-0) and Dinamo-Auto (7-0).
Ahead of what will truly be a David vs Goliath encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) September 27, 2021
There is some good news for Real Madrid with regards to the roster issues as Toni Kroos has been passed fit for the game and has been named in the squad by manager Ancelotti. Ferland Mendy is also close to a return after taking part in group training on Monday but this game comes too soon for him. Marcelo, Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Dani Ceballos all remain unavailable for selection, however.
Ancelotti will line his team up in a 4-3-3 formation and will be wary of making wholesale changes to the side after seeing Sheriff beat Shakhtar Donetsk last time out. Nonetheless, there will be rest afforded to some players who have featured regularly so far. Thibaut Courtois, who was top-notch in Madrid’s goalless draw against Villarreal at the weekend, should hold on to his place, however.
Federico Valverde started as a makeshift right-back in the weekend game and struggled. Furthermore, the Uruguayan has played in every game for Real Madrid this term and can do with a rest. This should open up a spot for Lucas Vazquez to start at right-back while Miguel Gutierrez ought to come in at left-back in place of Nacho. Eder Militao and David Alaba should continue to pair up at the centre.
Eduardo Camavinga who made a substitute appearance last time out, should be in line for his second start for Real Madrid. He ought to come in for Casemiro while Isco should replace Marco Asensio in the middle of the park, with Luka Modric retaining his spot in the side. The returning Kroos should get some minutes off the bench.
In attack, both Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are likely to be retained, although there is the chance that Luka Jovic features as the No.9 to get some minutes under his belt. Eden Hazard should come into the lineup in the hope of finding some form, with Rodrygo Goes making way.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Alaba, Gutierrez; Modric, Camavinga, Isco; Hazard, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Heading into the biggest match in the history of the club Sheriff Tiraspol will be without the services of Lovro Bizjak for the contest. Apart from that, manager Yuriy Vernydub does not have any other injury issues to deal with. He is likely to set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation as well, and name almost the same lineup from the win against Shakhtar Donetsk likely to be named.
Georgios Athanasiadis will be manning the goal for the Moldovan outfit and he will need all protection he can get from the four-man backline comprising Fernando Costanza and Cristiano as the full-backs, flanking the centre-half duo of Danilo Arboleda Hurtado and Gustavo Dulanto.
Edmund Addo ought to line up as the deepest of the three central midfielder and provide added security in front of the defence for Sheriff. He will have support from Dimitris Kolovos and Sebastien Thill, who will look to provide the forward thrust on the occasion the visitors are in possession.
Adama Traore, who was on target in the last UCL clash against Shakhtar, ought to get the nod on the right flank while captain Frank Castaneda slots in on the left flank. Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who started as the centre-forward in the UCL encounter last week, could make way for 24-year-old Momo Yansane.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Athanasiadis; Constanza, Arboleda, Dulanto, Cristiano; Thill, Addo, Kolovos; Traore, Yansane, Castaneda
- This will be only the second-ever fixture between a Spanish and Moldovan team in European competition after Real Betis’ UEFA Cup clash against Zimbru Chisinau in 2002/03.
- Real Madrid have only failed to score in one of their last 37 home games in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
- Excluding qualifiers, Sheriff Tiraspol have only won one of their 12 away games in European competition (D5 L6).
- Real Madrid are looking to become the first team in UEFA Champions League to record 100 home victories (currently on 99).
- Since the start of the last season, Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior has made more progressive carries of 10+ metres than any other players in the Champions League (70).
Player to Watch
"Eden Hazard is better physically and mentally. He is no longer afraid of his ankle. He has conquered his fears & freed himself personally. This freedom means that he should play well. He will start tomorrow."
— E. Hazard Tweets (@EHazardTweets) September 27, 2021
Time is running out quite fast for Eden Hazard at Real Madrid. It has been over two years since the Belgian wing-wizard arrived at the Bernabeu, but the injury and fitness issues have meant that he has never been able to flourish and excel the way he was expected to.
Considering that the likes of Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio have all made positive starts to the season, the ex-Chelsea star now risks getting left behind in Carlo Ancelotti’s plans. So, it is up to him to take whatever opportunities come his way and make the most of it to force himself into the thoughts of the manager. And the game against Sheriff Tiraspol provides just that.
Real Madrid 2-0 Sheriff Tiraspol
As iterated earlier, Real Madrid have made a solid start to the season despite not having been at their best. Their opponents Sheriff Tiraspol, meanwhile, showed on their Champions League group stage debut that they can go toe-to-toe with the big guns. However, given the sheer gulf of class between the squads, it is hard to imagine Los Blancos dropping points in this one, but Ancelotti must ensure that complacency does not become a factor.