Real Madrid were back in the Champions League at the Bernabeu after 26 February 2020 when Guardiola's City won 1-2. It was before the pandemic broke out in Spain, but the result is the same. The sensations, no. Under Ancelotti, the team has changed and its play is more lively. They attack more, defend less. The fans see goals and enjoy being on the edge because they know that there are many options not to go down. They have a more balanced squad, the goals are there and the youngsters are starting to be important.
Tiraspol Sheriff did not travel 3,700 kilometres to play anything other than the football that has taken them to the Champions League. The right to play in the competition was earned thanks to overcoming two preliminary rounds in July and after eliminating two unknown opponents like Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star in the qualifiers in August. Their sweet spot came in the first group game with a 2-0 win over Shakthar and their first three points, which some thought would be the only ones.
With all that Real Madrid were able to impress at the Bernabéu. It is also in Real Madrid's DNA to break statistics and even more so in the Champions League. They have been playing with fire for several seasons in the group stage and flirting with dropping into the Europa League. It is clear that the opponents are not footballing powers that put Modric, Benzema or Courtois on alert, and Vinicius, Camavinga or Rodrygo have a hard time pulling the white cart.
Ancelotti is not a tactical coach. Neither was Zidane. Nor has any coach been in years. The free will of the team can't be stifled by a slate and a few moves that bore the magicians of the Whites. That is assumed in the White House. If the end is to win titles, the means are quickly forgotten. Sheriff came to the Bernabeu to lock themselves in, to give Real Madrid the ball and to set up their attacking automatisms. Against this type of football, Real Madrid's mainstays are stealing balls, speed and striking. Basic football. The quality of the players does the rest.
But the Moldovan team has that bit of luck that goes with the job. Enough to score the first goal with an accurate header from inside the box and then to score the second goal in the top corner after Real Madrid struggled to defend a simple throw-in.
The simpler the football they play against Madrid, the worse it gets. Alcoyano is one of the latest examples. If Florentino Pérez wants the Superliga, it's also because he wants to keep his players' concentration levels up in big games every week. It's another thing if they get tired of that too.
Vinicius was not his usual self in recent games and Benzema had too many defenders in front of him. If the Frenchman came out of Sheriff's box no one was occupying that space to finish balls. The Brazilian's dribbles inside the box led to the 1-1 penalty and could have led to another if the defender's touch on the winger's foot had been accepted by the referee. But that is no excuse. Nothing is an excuse for this defeat which means nothing and tarnishes nothing. The only problem for Ancelotti's side is that they have to win uncomfortable away games against Shakthar and against Sheriff themselves.
Bad luck, poor finishing... and Ancelotti's aversion to studying opponents more thoroughly because it would mean changing his training methods. The changes didn't improve the team either. The white defence has only one objective: to concede one less goal than those up top are capable of scoring. It's more fun... and more dangerous.