“Real Madrid’s Champions League hopes are hanging in the balance after they lost 2-0 at Shakhtar Donetsk leaving them third in Group B with one round of games remaining”

Back in the eventful 2015-16 season, Real Madrid faced Shakhtar Donetsk for the first time in the Group Stages of the Champions League. In the Santiago Bernabeu, the Royal Whites gunned them down by 4-0, and then in the away match at the Olympic Stadium, Kyiv, they won by 4-3. Cristiano Ronaldo hit the headlines by bagging a hat-trick in Bernabeu and scoring twice in Kyiv.

Two and a half years later, Real Madrid lifted their thirteenth Champions League title at the Olympic Stadium to complete an astonishing run in the history of the club – in the modern era, very few clubs in Europe have been able to win the Champions League three times in a row, but that Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane had been a revolution.

Since then, things have changed in Real Madrid.

Nowadays, teams like Shakhtar Donetsk threaten to kick Real Madrid out of the competitions from the group stages, where they are the masters, and the Olympic Stadium, Kyiv gifts nightmares.

The triumph at the historic San Siro Stadium last week raised hopes, but the dismal show at the La Liga dented those yet again. Still, everyone expected, at least, in the group stages of the Champions League, Zidane would not make a mess and keep the fighting alive.

Sadly, Real Madrid’s Champions League hopes are hanging in the balance after they lost 2-0 at Shakhtar Donetsk leaving them third in Group B with one round of games remaining.

Real Madrid looked in control in the first half and had the home team on the back foot most of the time.

Marco Asensio thought he had given Madrid a fifth-minute lead, only to see his close-range strike hit the post after good work from Karim Benzema down the left had created the opportunity.

The returning Benzema had a shot saved by home goalkeeper Anatolii Trubin, who then produced an excellent stop to deny Asensio after a slick one-two between the Spain international and Martin Odegaard.

Shakhtar lost Junior Moraes when he could not shake off an injury sustained in an incident that saw Raphael Varane booked, as the hosts failed to register a first-half shot on target.

A great move by Madrid after the break led to Benzema creating a chance for Nacho to head over.

It seemed that the goals for Real Madrid would come soon; Shakhtar totally caught the visitors in the counter.

A Real Madrid corner set the tempo for the home team, who ran fast through the spaces, which was left during the transition – a nemesis for Real Madrid throughout the season during the breaks – and shook the backline.

Shakhtar took a 57th-minute lead when a pass from Viktor Kovalenko caused confusion between Ferland Mendy and Varane, allowing Dentinho to fire in a left-footed finish.

Varane did make a key block to deny Kovalenko and keep Madrid in it, while Trubin thwarted Mendy at the other end.

Zidane made three substitutions in the 77th-minute but it gave him little.

Then another Shakhtar counter-attack settled the contest, with Solomon allowed acres of space as he carried the ball from his own half before drilling a strike beyond Courtois from 18 yards in the 82nd minute.

Zidane played with two pivots last night where Luka Modric played the role of keeping the midfield moving while Odegaard placed just behind the striker to aid and press the opposition center-backs, which left spaces, but the build-up of Shakhtar was not up to the mark and for which they failed to exploit it. Still, Odegaard was proactive and kept a good connection between the midfield and upfront – broke the passing lanes and tried to create opportunities.

Luka Modric and Odegaard were one of the bright spots from last night.

Asensio showed promise, but later on, lost his mojo.

The backline was going nowhere last night.

Varane had another disaster-class display while his partner Nacho Fernandez failed to coordinate.

Kroos had to join the center-backs and shield them, but he is not Casemiro – the backline lost its solidity and in the second half came under pressure more often against the counterattacks of Shakhtar

Lucas Vazquez was vulnerable in the right-back position and it was evident, the sudden changes in his roles have been affecting his game. Against Inter, he was in a more advanced position, but at Kyiv, he was switched to the full-back position, whereas, Zidane could have used Eder Militao.

Neither Vazquez could link-up with the frontline nor could he cover the counters – Real Madrid suffered. On the other hand, Ferland Mendy kept things tight on the right flank, and it prompted Shakhtar to target through their left flank against Vazquez – 43% of the home team’s attack came from the left.

Clearly, Casemiro was missed along with Fede Valverde and in the last season, their defensive solidity earned them their 34th La Liga title, but they’ve now conceded more goals (nine) after five Champions League group games than ever before. And, you take Sergio Ramos out of the back four; the Spanish champions are always prone to collapse.

In fact, they collapsed.

Again, the frontline of Real Madrid is finding it tough to score goals, which is another setback.

Shakhtar were totally humiliated by Borussia Monchengladbach in their last two games, losing 6-0 at home to the Germans and 4-0 away. Yet Madrid, with Karim Benzema back in the starting line-up kept on firing blanks.

As Toni Kroos admitted afterward, Real are “struggling to score goals this season” and once they conceded, they never really looked like recovering.

Zidane and Real Madrid are in real danger of facing one of the darkest days in the history of the competition.


They need to buck up!

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