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Three talking points as Tottenham held Real Madrid at the Bernabeu

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham showed that they could compete with the very best in Europe after an impressive performance against Real Madrid. The match finished 1-1 and on another day, Spurs could have taken all three points. They went ahead after Serge Aurier’s cross was diverted home thanks to a deflection off Raphael Varane. The clever movement of Harry Kane played a huge role in the goal. The home side increased their tempo before half-time and won a penalty, which was converted by Cristiano Ronaldo. This point puts Mauricio Pochettino’s team into a strong position in the group. Here are three talking points from the game:

Tottenham have come a long way in 12 months

Although they were given a relatively tough group last season, it was a disappointment that they didn’t go through to the knockout stages. Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco were both more experienced in the competition, but Spurs should have had the talent to go further. They have learned from their mistakes and developed as a group since then. The team now look ready to progress from an even tougher group featuring Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

They currently sit top of their group after three matches played and have a six-point lead over Borussia Dortmund. Despite Real Madrid having the better of the game, Tottenham competed well and could have won it themselves with Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane both having chances late on. Pochettino proved he could set up the team to soak in pressure and the selection of Fernando Llorente was a masterstroke, as he gave Spurs more of a presence in the final third. They left the Bernabeu with an enhanced reputation.

Something isn’t right at Real Madrid

They have yet to live up to the favourites tag that they were given at the beginning of the tournament. It was unsurprising many billed them as that considering they have won the last two Champions League on the trot, but they aren’t as devastating this time around. Their finishing was poor and they looked to be lacking confidence. Karim Benzema has only scored once this season, while their record of 15 goals in eight La Liga games isn’t impressive.

Tottenham certainly caught them at the right time and Pochettino will be hoping for an even better result when the two teams meet at Wembley. There is no reason why his side can’t look to top this group and if they do, that would be an incredible achievement and consolidate their position as a force to be reckoned with.

Hugo Lloris is an excellent goalkeeper

Mauricio Pochettino knew that his side were the underdogs heading into this fixture and had his goalkeeper to thank for the point earned in Real Madrid. Tottenham don’t concede many chances in the Premier League; therefore, it is sometimes forgotten how good Huge Lloris is. He was a contender for the man-of-the-match award after a superb showing between the sticks.

During the match, he was forced to make seven saves. This included two incredible, acrobatic saves to deny Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo during the second half. They came at a crucial stage in the game when the home side were building up a head of steam and gave belief to the rest of the Tottenham team that they could go on to gain a positive result. His pass accuracy of 67% was very good considering his side were under pressure for much of the game. He often selected the right out ball and deserves credit for that.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Champions League

Gareth Bale’s red-hot Real Madrid form should scare Liverpool

The Welshman has scored 11 goals in his last 15 appearances.

Max Cohen

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Gareth Bale
Photo: Getty Images

In Real Madrid’s final league match of this season on Saturday, Gareth Bale swept home a lovely right-footed finish to open the scoring against Villarreal.

That goal marked the Welshman’s 11th goal in his last 15 appearances for club and country; a remarkably prolific run of form that should scare Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s Champions League final.

Injury problems have marred much of Bale’s time at the Bernabeu, and he suffered a lengthy two-month absence from the first team this fall.

Yet, after returning from his injury lay-off, the former world-record signing has hit full form in the last two months.

In that time period, the winger has scored a hat-trick for Wales, braces against Las Palmas and Celta Vigo, and a crucial goal versus Barcelona.

This spring resurgence presents a worrying prospect for Liverpool’s defence, who already will have their hands full trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check in Kiev.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Add in Gareth Bale hitting full form, and suddenly the task at hand for Jurgen Klopp’s men appears far more difficult.

The 28-year-old also has quite the decorated history for los Blancos in cup finals. In his debut season for Real, Bale scored sensational winning goals in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.

The following season in the European Cup final, the Welshman assisted Real Madrid’s sole goal and scored his penalty in the ensuing shoot-out; his cup final record is simply superb.

Combined with Bale’s recent tremendous goalscoring form, the prospect of facing up against the powerful winger might strike fear in the Liverpool backline.

But the Reds have proven adept in stifling some of the best attacks in Europe this season.

Liverpool famously restricted high-scoring Manchester City to just one goal over 180 minutes in the quarterfinals and the Reds will have to conjure up that heroic rearguard performance in order to stop the on-form Gareth Bale next weekend.

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Liverpool

Liverpool will be delighted with Real Madrid’s weakness in latest defeat

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Photo: Getty Images.

Real Madrid are undoubtedly a daunting prospect for any side in Europe, particularly given that they have already seen off the champions of France, Italy and Germany in the Champions League this season, but there may be hope yet for Liverpool.

Zinedine Zidane’s team have struggled domestically this campaign and find themselves 18 points behind league champions Barcelona, who were, of course, earlier knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool’s semi-final opponents AS Roma.

Los Blancos are on track for their worst points return since Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club from Manchester United in 2009 and this week’s surprising defeat to Sevilla, who Liverpool drew with both home and away in the group stage, showed some weaknesses which will have Jurgen Klopp licking his lips.

Sevilla v Real Madrid - La Liga

SEVILLE, SPAIN – MAY 09: Head coach Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid looks on prior to the start the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on May 9, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

The first thing to point out is that Real Madrid were without many of their key men, the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo were all rested whilst Gareth Bale was suspended. Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Carvajal and Isco were all absent through injury and whilst the latter returned to training on Friday, the first two could face a race against time to be fit for Kiev.

Despite that, the weaknesses on show were not new to Real Madrid this season as they again struggled against a side who were not afraid to be physical and attack on the counter.

Early on, Zidane’s side dominated but Sevilla twice countered incisively, once by going long through the middle, as Liverpool were accused of doing time after time against Roma with a stunning impact, and once down the flanks with pace, just as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane possess in abundance.

After going behind, the nerves got to Real Madrid and even captain Sergio Ramos seemed to struggle with the pressure as he fired a penalty onto the crossbar and then deflected a cross into his own net.

A late comeback with Ramos not making the same mistake again and Borja Mayoral scoring after coming on as a substitute saved some face for the reigning European champions, but Liverpool will relish facing a disjointed defence like that.

Of particular interest, beyond Real Madrid’s struggle with pace on the flanks and long balls through the middle, will have been Zidane’s experimenting at right-back, this time choosing versatile Nacho at full-back in place of Carvajal, rather than Lucas Vazquez who started there against Bayern Munich.

Nacho, who would be favourite to play against Liverpool if Carvajal is not fit, is a reliable option who makes few mistakes, but has previously struggled up against the pace of a player like Sadio Mane.

Liverpool may have a mountain to climb, but tactically, the path is there for Liverpool to exploit Real Madrid’s weaknesses.

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Liverpool

Real Madrid prospect Dani Ceballos would be tremendous signing for Jurgen Klopp

The 21-year-old is expected to leave the Spanish capital this summer.

Max Cohen

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Photo: Getty Images

This past week reports in the Spanish media outlet Don Balon linked Real Madrid central midfielder Dani Ceballos with a move to Liverpool.

Ceballos is an immensely talented creative player who would slot in perfectly at Anfield and, at only 21 years of age, has the potential to be a Kop favourite for many seasons to come.

The Spanish Under-21 international joined Madrid from Real Betis last summer for a fee of around 15 million euros, after 98 appearances and seven goals for the Sevilla club.

Ceballos has frustratingly found first-team opportunities severely limited at the Bernabeu, as the youngster is forced to contend for playing time with some of the biggest names in world football.

A move to Liverpool would be an ideal switch for the talented playmaker, as he could adequately fill the gap that the outgoing Emre Can will create. A uniquely skilful dribbler, Ceballos has a wand of a right foot that can flick the ball past defenders at ease.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A quick glance at the Spaniard’s highlight roll reveals a plethora of intricate touches, driving runs, and slicing through balls that terrorise opposition backlines. What is even more impressive is that Ceballos produced such feats as a young player in La Liga, against the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and other top sides.

The midfielder has also hit fine form for the Spanish youth set-up, winning the prestigious Player of the Tournament awards at the U-21 European Championships last summer. His performances in Poland were eye-catching, captivating audiences with his mazy runs and audacious feints.

If the 21-year-old makes the switch to Anfield, he would provide the perfect complement to the high-powered attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane.

To imagine Ceballos slotting wonderfully weighted through balls to those three is a salivating sight for Liverpool supporters; they must hope he chooses to join Jurgen Klopp’s side this offseason.

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