Real Madrid vs. Atalanta: 5 key players to watch in the second leg

Fede Valverde of Real Madrid (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Fede Valverde of Real Madrid (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Karim Benzema
Real Madrid, Karim Benzema (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images) /

Atalanta CB Cristian Romero

There are few center backs in Europe who are playing at a higher level than Cristian Romero, who has been a massive breakout star since joining Atalanta on loan from Juventus. Nothing about his 2019-2020 loan spell at Genoa suggested he’d blow up like this, but Romero has been Atalanta’s star man at the back and covering up for the more experienced players around him defensively.

In the first leg, Romero had three tackles, five interceptions, and two blocks. He’s had at least four interceptions in each of his last four Champions League matchups. In Serie A, Romero averages 2.2 tackles per game and 3.6 interceptions per game. He is going to give Real’s attack fits with his closing speed and ability to get involved in everything.

Real Madrid CF Karim Benzema

Atalanta’s forward duo of Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata is so good that I decided not to belabor the point and focus on them in this piece, though I have made sure to consistently praise them and the 39 goal contributions they have between them in Serie A alone.

Next. Ranking Cristiano Ronaldo's best goals for Real Madrid. dark

But the biggest star striker in this match is undoubtedly the Champions League legend himself, Karim Benzema. At less than 100 percent, he scored the game-tying goal in the final minutes last weekend at Atletico Madrid, and then he saved Real’s butts against lowly Elche this past Saturday.

Benzema is back healthy, in great form, and ready to be the difference in the second leg. Real missed him at the Gewiss Stadium, in all the ways he profoundly influences this team.