Real Madrid

Real Madrid restore fear factor with sensational collective display against Shakhtar Donetsk

Max Parsons
All-round satisfaction for Real Madrid at Shakhtar Donetsk
All-round satisfaction for Real Madrid at Shakhtar Donetsk / SERGEI SUPINSKY/GettyImages
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Barcelona may have been hopeful for their upcoming Clasico on Saturday following Real Madrid's despondent form prior to the international break.

Well, that hope will have been cruelly crushed courtesy of Los Blancos' sublime collective rout at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night.

Carlo Ancelotti's side headed into the Champions League matchday three tie having suffered defeat in their last two games. A momentous shock loss on home soil to Sheriff Tiraspol was swiftly followed by a drowsy 2-1 beating at the hands of Espanyol.

It's safe say that their trip to Kiev held significance. They needed to yield a result ahead of what Karim Benzema insists is the "biggest game in football".

Neither the Blancos skipper, nor his teammates, could have hoped for anything better than they delivered on the night. A 5-0 trouncing of their opposition firmly restored any dignity and fear factor the side had lost - possibly over the past 18 months, let alone from recent form.

It was a collectively majestic performance.

FBL-EUR-C1-SHAKHTAR DONETSK-REAL MADRID
A fantastic team display from Real Madrid / SERGEI SUPINSKY/GettyImages

Thibaut Courtois' goal was protected at all costs by either the Belgian shot-stopper's seemingly eternal reach or by the staunch backline ahead of him. The deputising Lucas Vazquez and the returning Ferland Mendy were simultaneously unbeatable at full-back, as well as effective when stepping forward.

Between them, the rear-guard was commanded by a previously unfancied Eder Militao, who has been the butt of much scepticism throughout his career at the Santiago Bernabeu. On Tuesday night - and, indeed, for much of the 2021/22 campaign thus far - the 23-year-old was colossal, shouting, tackling, marshalling, blocking, imposing and, most of all, leading.

In the centre of the field, the characteristically dominant Casemiro stifled Shakhtar to the extent that the sluggishness and fatigued defensive displays of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were hardly noticeable. Instead, the two veterans put on a creative show of the highest elegance for their audience to feast upon.

Kroos spread typically jaw-dropping quarterback passes to play the opposition defence around like puppets, while Modric's cute touches on the ball eventually bore fruit to a saucy slide rule assist for his side's second of the night. Unlike last term, Los Blancos had a perfect balance in the middle of the park, rarely affected by Shakhtar's offensive efforts.

The main attraction, of course, was up top. It was a resolute and collaborative peerformance rounded off by the individual brilliance that Ancelotti boasts at the top of the field.

Benzema, firstly, was integral to all five of Real Madrid's goals (of course he was). His movement provoked the own goal for number one before building play for his side's second and fourth, assisting the third and deservedly grabbing a goal to make it 5-0 late on. An all-round world-class performance from a divine talent who leads by example - a talent befitting of a Ballon d'Or, perhaps?

The headline grabber in Kiev, however, was his fellow forward Vinicius Jr. Thoroughly tormenting throughout, the Brazilian wonderkid was direct and devastating from the first whistle.

He eventually made his confidence count with a classy, chipped finish to make it 2-0 after the interval, before securing a quickfire brace with a superbly executed mazy, untouchable and breath-taking solo effort. Just to seal the deal, the 21-year-old then set up compatriot Rodrygo for number four - a deserved 9/10 rating, for sure.

Behind these moments of fluid, fast-paced, ruthless attacking play were the unmissable foundations, though. It was a performance that had it all; a performance you'd expect from the giants that are Real Madrid.

The past 18 months have been somewhat of a downer for Los Blancos, and you'd be forgiven for thinking last season's lessons hadn't been learned following two disappointing defeats from two before the international break.

However, having overcome a strong Shakhtar side so dominantly, Ancelotti has clearly rebuilt a Real Madrid side ready to make an impact. And with a mammoth Clasico in La Liga to look forward to at the weekend, their Catalan counterparts should be worried.

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