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 have been off their usual pace this season, with injuries to key players hampering their ability to perform consistently and with their usual pizazz.
They scraped through their Champions League group to get to this point, and fell to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana and third-tier Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey.
In La Liga, they had fallen way behind city rivals Atletico Madrid but have cut that distance in recent times, aided by Atletico’s slump in form.
Los Blancos currently sit third in the league table, two points behind Barcelona and six behind Los Rojiblancos. Within this context, the Champions League has taken on significant importance. It is Madrid’s favourite competition, after all.
Atalanta started well on the evening, 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.