Real Madrid cannot be overly aggressive in defense
I have repeated this key to victory before, but it is true that against the best teams in the world like PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City, and now Liverpool (arguably the most dangerous of them to Madrid, by the way), the same things that lead to a win must be harped on.
For Real Madrid, disciplined defending has been an important phrase. David Alaba’s likely return to the XI vs. Liverpool will be a particularly necessary boost, not just for his ball-playing ability, but also because he is by far the most composed and intelligent defender on Los Blancos. That is not to disparage Eder Militao’s reading of the game or Nacho Fernandez’s experience, but Alaba is a different level of big-game experience and defensive quality. We have seen that whenever he is not available, including in a narrow Supercopa Clasico earlier this season.
Nacho and Militao could be the starters if Alaba somehow cannot be back in time. We could see both of them getting minutes in this game, depending on how things go. Militao bounced back against Real Betis, but Madridistas remain worried after some of his rash decisions. And while Nacho has been great lately, including against Manchester City in the second leg, that was not always the case. He and right back Dani Carvajal have been the poster children for unnecessary aggression and risky defending this season.
Real Madrid are going up against one of the world’s most dynamic attacks. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are among the Ballon d’Or candidates behind Karim Benzema. Luis Diaz has been a masterstroke of a signing and may prove to be even better than his attacking teammates.
To contend with these electrifying players, Real Madrid cannot make mistakes on or off the ball defensively. They must take the safe options and, looking at Militao and Nacho here, cannot overly commit to a player without being 100 percent sure they will win the ball.
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This Champions League Final will be a test of the defense’s togetherness, understanding, and discipline. Real’s hopes of a 14th title will rest on the shoulders of the men at the back protecting the world-class Thibaut Courtois’ goal.