Real Madrid have entered their favourite time of the season, and they still have a lot to play for. This evening they welcomed Italian side Atalanta to Valdebebas for their Champions League last 16 second leg, having won 1-0 in the first leg in Bergamo.
Zinedine Zidane’s men secured a comfortable and confident 3-1 win to secure their place in the quarter finals and rebuke the notion that Spanish football is dead and buried. Los Blancos took a two-goal lead inside the opening hour and quickly quelled any notion of a comeback from the visitors.
Atalanta had started well, playing without fear, but were punished for a loose ball just after the half-hour. Luka Modric seized upon it before funnelling it to Karim Benzema, who finished like the ruthless forward he is.
Another member of the old guard so trusted by Zidane contributed soon after, with Sergio Ramos adding Madrid’s second in the 60th minute. Vinicius won a penalty after a mazy run, and the Andalusian, just-returned from injury, duly converted.
Madrid may have been forgiven for thinking it was over, but it wasn’t. Atalanta pulled one back late on through Luis Muriel, who scored with a well-struck free-kick in the 83rd minute.
Zidane didn’t even have time to get nervous, however, with his team replying immediately with a goal from substitute Marco Asensio to restore their two-goal lead and put them out of sight.
“The objective was to pass, with a good result,” Ramos said post-game in comments carried by Marca.
“We’ve come out with the ambition of wanting to win the game and play with control of the ball, to control the game. We’ve had opportunities to score more goals, and there’s a lot more football to be played this season. This is the way to proceed.
“In the end you adapt your approach to the other team. We didn’t know how they were going to press, but we quickly took control thanks to our three-at-the-back system. We knew that with their speed they could be dangerous, but it went well and they didn’t really threaten us.”
Ramos was also asked about his future. “In the end, when you’ve been taking care of yourself for so many years, you reap what you sow,” he said.
“Nobody can be judged by their date of birth. We have to always try to perform at the highest level, and people must learn to value performance. I can’t report anything [about the renewal]. When there’s something to report I’ll be the first one to do so.”