Champions League group stage recap: Real Madrid in a hurry
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
The Merengues and Manchester City were the first sides to make it to the last 16, striding through with two games to spare.
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The holders set out their stall early in Group F, leaving it late to overcome Celtic and Leipzig before showing they can be quick starters too in their home victory against Shakhtar.
A last-gasp draw against the Ukrainian side ensured they made it through with two games to play – and last season's top scorer Karim Benzema has not even found his way on to the scoresheet yet.
Campaign so far
Group F winners: W4 D1 L1 F15 A6
Top scorer: Vinícius Júnior (4)
06/09: Celtic 0-3 Real Madrid (Vinícius Júnior 56, Modrić 60, Hazard 77)
14/09: Real Madrid 2-0 Leipzig (Valverde 80, Asensio 90+1)
05/10: Real Madrid 2-1 Shakhtar (Rodrygo 13, Vinícius Júnior 28; Zubkov 39)
11/10: Shakhtar 1-1 Real Madrid (Zubkov 46; Rüdiger 90+5)
25/10: Leipzig 3-2 Real Madrid (Gvardiol 13, Nkunku 18, Werner 81; Vinícius Júnior 44, Rodrygo 90+3)
02/11: Real Madrid 5-1 Celtic (Modrić 6pen, Rodrygo 21pen, Asensio 51, Vinícius Júnior 61, Valverde 71; Jota 84)
Campaign in ten words: Champions show character and quality, despite not excelling, to qualify.
UEFA.com Real Madrid reporter
It's perpetually great fun watching Madrid play. You get everything. Moments (Celtic Park) where they play more consecutive passes (33) leading to a goal than any of the 434 they've scored since such data records began in 2003/04, moments (at home to Leipzig) where the opponents can't believe they've not scored two or three before, you guessed it, losing. Trademark late goals, just like last season, which are a very healthy winners' characteristic. And all-round consummate performances like the 5-1 defeat of Celtic on Matchday 6.
How do Real Madrid play?
The shape never really varies – 4-3-3 is the formation Carlo Ancelotti believes best suits his squad and how he wants Madrid to play. The two important tactical variants are using midfielder Federico Valverde as the right-sided attacker, instead of a striker, and relocating David Alaba to left-back then allowing him the same freedom to attack as Marcelo had. One dramatic tweak was playing Antonio Rüdiger as an auxiliary centre-forward in the last few minutes away to Shakhtar, in a (successful) equaliser chase.
Fantasy star performers
Vinícius Júnior – 40 points
Federico Valverde – 38 points
Rodrygo – 36 points
In: Marvel*, Rafel Obrador*, Nicolás Paz*
Clubs had until 24:00 CET on Thursday 2 February to register a maximum of three new eligible players prior to the knockout stage. Since 2018/19, it no longer matters whether those players have already played in the competition for another club, even for another club still in the competition.
- Luka Modrić (37 years 54 days) became the fifth oldest goalscorer in Champions League history when he struck against Celtic on Matchday 6.
- Toni Kroos made 83 passes into the attacking third of the field in his six games – an astonishing 23 more than any other player across the group stage.
- Madrid registered more shots than any other side in the group stage, racking up 114 across their six games.