Real Madrid will hope to secure the top spot in the UEFA Champions League Group F when they welcome Celtic to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

The curtains will fall on the UEFA Champions League group stage, with eight matches on show. Group F is at an intriguing juncture, with the top three places yet to be confirmed. And Real Madrid will hope to clinch the top spot when they play hosts to Celtic at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

Real Madrid seemed to be cruising to a perfect UEFA Champions League group stage campaign midway through the phase. ButΒ Los Blancos first dropped points against Shakhtar Donetsk before RB Leipzig beat them last week. So while Carlo Ancelotti’s men are safely through to the Round of 16, they are yet to confirm the top spot.

On the other hand, Celtic will be done with European football for the 2022/23 season this week. The Scottish giants have managed only two points from their first five games and cannot even finish third in Group F. The only positive results have come in the two stalemates with Shakhtar Donetsk.

But the Scottish Premiership has been a happy hunting ground for Celtic, with the Bhoys currently top of the table, losing just once all season. And Real Madrid, like the visitors, sit on top of their league standings, with arch-rival Barcelona a point behind.

The reverse fixture saw Real Madrid cruise to a 3-0 win over Celtic, with Vinicius Junior, Luka Modric and Eden Hazard finding the back of the net. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Carlo Ancelotti has a few pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Celtic. On Wednesday, the Real Madrid manager will be bereft of the services of two first-team players.

Karim Benzema remains on the sidelines due to a muscular issue. Meanwhile, Aurelien Tchouameni is struggling with physical discomfort. And according to MARCA, the French duo will not take on Celtic, with Ancelotti unlikely to risk them.

The Real Madrid manager might make a few rotations against Celtic to keep his troops fresh. So Lucas Vazquez could replace Dani Carvajal as the right-back. Nacho might also earn a start, lining up alongside Eder Militao in the central defensive pairing. Ferland Mendy should complete the backline, with Thibaut Courtois taking his spot between the sticks.

Toni Kroos will be unavailable for Real Madrid’s next La Liga assignment against Rayo Vallecano. So the German midfield maestro picks himself in the middle of the park. Tchouameni’s absence means Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric will retain their spots in the middle of the park.

Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio will fancy their chances of featuring in the absence of Benzema. But with Real Madrid yet to secure the top spot in Group F, Federico Valverde will start alongside Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior in the front three. Asensio and Hazard will thus be options on the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Camavinga, Kroos; Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinicius Jr.


Unlike his counterpart in the Real Madrid dugout, Ange Postecoglou does not have any new roster issues to deal with ahead of the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu. The Celtic manager might be without three first-team players on Wednesday.

Callum McGregor sustained a knee injury against RB Leipzig last month and is still on the sidelines. Stephen Welsh is another absentee due to a knock. Meanwhile, Postecoglou is sweating over the fitness of Carl Starfelt, whose recovery from a knee issue has been slow.

Celtic will line up in a 4-3-3 formation against Real Madrid, with Joe Hart starting between the sticks. Cameron Carter-Vickers has donned the armband in McGregor’s absence. And the USMNT international picks himself in the central defensive pairing alongside Moritz Jenz in the absence of Starfelt and Welsh. Anthony Ralston and Greg Taylor will be the full-backs against Real Madrid.

Reo Hatate, Matt O’Riley and Aaron Mooy will share defensive duties between them in a fluid midfield setup. The trio will also look to push Celtic forward quickly during transitions to catch Real Madrid off guard in Aurelien Tchouameni’s absence.

Kyogo Furuhashi will likely spearhead the Celtic attack against Real Madrid. James Forrest and Liel Abada should be the two wide attackers, with the duo looking to put the hosts’ full-backs under pressure. Sead Haksabanovic and Jota will be backup options on the bench for the visitors.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Taylor; Hatate, O’Riley, Mooy; Abada, Furuhashi, Forrest

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid and Celtic have met three times in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League. Los Blancos lost the first one on 5th March 1980 (0-2) but beat them 14 days later (3-0) to progress to the semi-final of the competition in 1979/80. The most recent meeting was a 3-0 win for Real Madrid at Celtic Park in September.
  • Wednesday will be only the fourth time a Scottish side will face Real Madrid away from home in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League. The previous three clashes have ended in defeats for the visitors – 0-6 for Rangers in 1963, 1-5 for Kilmarnock in 1965 and 0-3 for Celtic in 1980.
  • Celtic’s last five games against Spanish sides in the UEFA Champions League have all ended in defeat, with the Scottish side conceding 19 goals and only scoring once in reply. They have never won away to a Spanish opponent in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League (D1 L8 from nine games).
  • Real Madrid have only failed to win one of their 11 home games in the UEFA Champions League group stage under Carlo Ancelotti (1-2 vs Sheriff Tiraspol in September 2021), with the other ten all ending in victory. The Merengues have scored 29 goals across these 11 matches, at an average of 2.6 per game.
  • Since the start of last season, no player has been involved in more open play sequences that have ended in a shot (121) or a goal (20) in the UEFA Champions League than Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior.

Player to Watch

Federico Valverde

Embed from Getty Images

Karim Benzema’s iffy fitness situation has left Carlo Ancelotti in a spot of bother this season. With the Real Madrid captain likely to be unavailable to take on Celtic, the Italian tactician will turn to the supporting cast to produce the goods. And the first name that pops into mind is Federico Valverde.

The Uruguayan international was brilliant against Girona this past weekend. And Real Madrid will need Valverde in top form to get past the tricky Celtic test on Wednesday. With the 24-year-old rising to Ancelotti’s challenge with aplomb, one can expect him to make a difference this week at the Santiago Bernabeu.


Real Madrid 2-1 Celtic

Real Madrid will have two pivotal figures missing against Celtic, who might have the chance to spring a surprise at the Santiago Bernabeu. Karim Benzema’s absence can robΒ Los Blancos of goals, while defensive stability will be missing without Aurelien Tchouameni.

But Federico Valverde has often delivered the goods in clutch situations this season. And the Uruguayan international should make the difference alongside Vinicius Junior on Wednesday. However, Celtic will not go down without a fight, putting Real Madrid to the sword. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Carlo Ancelotti and his charges.

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