Real Madrid: 3 takeaways from a nail-biting win over Atalanta

Real Madrid, Ferland Mendy (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Ferland Mendy (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Nacho Fernandez
Real Madrid, Nacho Fernandez (Photo by Ricardo Nogueira/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Another big match from Nacho in defense

Nacho Fernandez has been one of the surprise stars of the 2020-2021 season for Real Madrid. He played in some big matches last year as a fullback when injuries hit, but he’s played a much bigger role in the current campaign as even more injuries have rattled Los Blancos. And few of those injuries have been bigger than the one to captain Sergio Ramos.

Madridistas have been impressed with how Nacho has softened the blow of losing Ramos. He snaps into tackles, surges into the opposing penalty box, and calmly gets the ball out of danger like Ramos. It almost seems like he takes inspiration from the No. 4 with the way he plays.

Nacho finished the Round of 16 first leg at the Gewiss Stadium with a team-high four tackles and two interceptions. Before Atalanta were down to 10 men and were attacking frequently through Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel, Nacho made a couple of very impressive tackles.

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It’s been so important for Nacho to step up as a leader and put in great defensive performances next to Raphael Varane, who needs the help based on the way Los Blancos play. Having two strong center backs is crucial to Los Merengues, and Nacho has done an excellent job of completing the pair. He delivered in a big way against Atalanta, even if the defense was mostly untested due to the first-half red card.