Real Madrid vs. Atalanta: Breaking down expectations for each player

Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois
Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

On Tuesday night, Real Madrid will face Atalanta in the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, having already won the first leg 1-0. Los Blancos were not 100 percent convincing in the first match, as they needed a late prayer from Ferland Mendy with his weaker foot from outside the box to pick up an away goal against a 10-man team.

But Real won and have an advantage in the second leg at home.

Let’s break down the expectations we should have for each player who could conceivably start or play an important role off the bench.

GK Thibaut Courtois

A sure-fire starter for Los Blancos, Thibaut Courtois will likely be busier in the second leg than he was in the first, as a second red card to Atalanta is highly unrealistic. Courtois is having a great season for Real Madrid, and Madridistas feel fully secure with him in goal. But he will surely be tested by the likes of Luis Muriel on Tuesday night.

LB Ferland Mendy

The star of the show in the first leg, Mendy didn’t just score the winner. He was also the man who drew the crucial red card in the first 20 minutes. Mendy struggled offensively against Elche over the weekend and hasn’t really picked up where he left off offensively from February, but perhaps the second leg will be another statement game from the French fullback.

LCB Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is back in the starting XI, as he played 61 minutes on Saturday against Elche. We know how important Ramos is in the Champions League, and Madridistas would love to see him score a goal and make big defensive plays against Duvan Zapata and Co. this week. Nacho Fernandez was class in the first leg, and Ramos should be just as good in the second.

RCB Raphael Varane

Raphael Varane played as part of a back three for Real Madrid vs. Elche, and maybe Zinedine Zidane rolls the dice on a similar formation. Whatever the case, Varane is a key player to watch, because he would be locked in as the starter next to Ramos in the usual back four. He was strong in the first leg and should have another huge performance. The big key for him will be ball security against the Atalanta press, which was vicious prior to the red card.

RB Lucas Vazquez

Dani Carvajal doesn’t appear to be ready to play, so Lucas Vazquez is the main man at right back. Alvaro Odriozola is not an option against this caliber of competition. Vazquez was good in the first leg, but he is a bit inconsistent defensively. We saw him at his worst against Atletico Madrid last weekend, and he wasn’t at his best against Elche either. Here’s to hoping for a bounce-back display vs. Atalanta.