Real Madrid vs. Atalanta: What to expect from Sergio Ramos

Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have been surprisingly competent without star center back Sergio Ramos, who has been out with a knee injury since Jan. 10. The captain has mostly made headlines for his ongoing contract negotiations with Madrid, which will hopefully be resolved by the end of the month, but he’s also been excellent again this season when on the pitch.

Thanks to Nacho Fernandez’s inspired play, Los Blancos have remained strong defensively even without Ramos. Their only below-par performance came at the weekend against Atletico Madrid, though that’s troubling enough to make fans eager to see Ramos back for the second leg against Atalanta.

Real Madrid won the first leg 1-0 at the Gewiss Stadium, benefiting from a controversial red card in the 17th minute to Remo Freuler and an early injury to star striker Duvan Zapata, who is one of Serie A’s best. It’s unlikely they will be as fortunate in the second leg, and we all saw how much Ramos was missed in last year’s second leg of the Champions League Round of 16.

The Atalanta match next Tuesday has long been targeted as Ramos’ return date. MARCA’s Miguel Angel Lara recently called Sergio Ramos’ return to the lineup “imminent”, as he could get playing time this weekend against Elche, whom Real drew 1-1 earlier this season, before starting vs. Atalanta the following Tuesday.

Real Madrid will have to be perfect defensively vs. Atalanta

Assuming Ramos plays against Elche with no setbacks and is ready to go in the Champions League, what can Madridistas expect from the captain?

For starters, Real will play very defensive. They know the threat Atalanta can cause and will be prepared for an all-out assault on their goal from Gian Piero Gasperini’s men. Furthermore, they cannot afford to give up more than one goal, lest they get knocked out by away goals as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus were this Tuesday.

Ramos will have to be vocal and disciplined, going toe-to-toe with Atalanta’s talented attackers. His ball-playing ability and technique with his passing and touch out of the back will also be important against the aggressive Atalanta press, which was present through the first 15 minutes before the Freuler red card.

And of course, if Real need a goal, Ramos was their second-leading goal-scorer in 2019-2020 and proved to be “captain clutch” in the summer on the team’s march to a 34th league title.

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While Ramos may show rust after a long-term absence, the No. 4 is one of those players who rarely shows rust or signs of pain. So long as his tune-up against Elche is positive, Real Madrid fans will feel they can count on Ramos to deliver. If he keeps it simple (unless he absolutely has to) and stays focused, he should play a key role in ensuring Los Merengues advance to the Champions League Round of 16.