Real Madrid carry a significant advantage to the second leg of the Champions League after an unconvincing 2-1 win over Ajax in Amsterdam. Apart from the one-goal advantage, the defending Champions also have two away goals under their belt. This means that Ajax will have to score at least two goals at the Santiago Bernabeu.
But Madrid will be without their captain Sergio Ramos, who will miss the game after being suspended. The Spaniard recklessly admitted that he drew a yellow card deliberately in the first leg so that he will be clean as Madrid enter the quarterfinals and have all the cards wiped off.
But what if his rash decision ends up costing Madrid a place in the quarters, rendering his “sacrifice” useless? Nacho Fernandez is the natural replacement for his Spain teammate.
The issue Madrid will be facing in Ramos’s absence would have been much simpler if it was purely related to defending only. In fact, Nacho can make up for Ramos’s absence, given the latter has not been at his best in the last few weeks.
Rather than his defending, Los Blancos will be missing Ramos’s presence on the field. The team will need a booming voice from the back if they show any complacency.
The defending champions will need a fighter on the pitch if things get heated, especially given that Ajax dominated proceedings in the first leg.
Moreover, Ramos' ability to score key goals at crucial times cannot be understated.
Nacho may replace Ramos the defender, but it’s unlikely that he – or anyone on the pitch – can replace Ramos the leader.
Meanwhile, Ajax must assert themselves on the hosts right from the beginning and put them under pressure with an early goal. This could create all sorts of problems for the defending Champions.
The players at Madrid must step up and ensure that Ramos’s first game after suspension isn’t a group stage game in the 2019/20 season.