Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti always find a way. How do they do it?

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jude Bellingham;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jude Bellingham</a> and Madrid get their celebrations on.</span><span>Photograph: Naomi Baker/Getty Images</span>


Maybe Fede Valverde, Real Madrid’s man of the match at the Etihad, said it best: “Against all odds. Acting like dead people. THIS IS FOOTBALL HERITAGE REAL MADRID.” Yes, Manchester City are out, Madrid are through, water is wet. Stick your xG, bookies’ odds, possession stats, and moral victories. Liam Gallagher, Ricky Hatton, Jason Manford, your boys took one hell of a beating. So Madrid continued their inevitable march towards another Big Cup semi-final, their 12th in the last 14 years. Sometimes over the years they have bullied and swaggered their way to victory, through Sergio Ramos headers or Gareth Bale bicycle kicks. Sometimes, as on Wednesday, they have grafted, ridden their luck, found a goal or a pass or a tackle from nowhere, watched as their opponents have inexplicably squandered their chances – like a Bond villain missing a point-blank shot with an automatic weapon, only to see 007 cling on for dear life and triumph at the last. Madrid always find a way. Carlo Ancelotti always finds a way. How do they do it?

“I think one of our biggest strengths is that we’re so off the cuff,” jazz trumpeted Jude Bellingham shortly after the game. “You know, as a man, Carlo just fills you with calmness and confidence. Before the game, I caught him yawning and asked him: ‘Boss, are you tired?’ He said you need to go and excite me out there, that’s the calmness and confidence he brings.” It’s the sort of quote that would make Pep Guardiola spontaneously combust. If pressing and counter-pressing and Jack Grealish square passes to Rodri and byline cut-backs and domination of the half spaces and tactical fouls are his minutiae-inspired blueprint to success, how does Don Carlo – all eyebrows and cigars, the people’s champ, friend first, boss second, probably entertainer third – ‘vibe’ his way past the City supercomputer? It seems nobody really has an answer. “I will sleep very well tonight, with a beer,” explained Ancelotti, almost apologetically.

Meanwhile, a victory of a different kind in Germany, as Bayern deservingly joined Madrid in the last four with a 3-2 aggregate win over Arsenal, who tumbled out of Big Cup with a whimper. “A [Big Cup] journey to be proud of,” small-energied the Gunners’ official Social Media Disgrace accounts, seemingly forgetting that their victories in this European campaign have been against an out-of-sorts Sevilla, Lens, PSV, before (scraping past) Porto and losing to the worst Bayern side in a decade (who didn’t have any fans in the first leg and missed Alphonso Davies, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman in the second).

But for Bayern, in a season of turmoil in which they lost the title with five games to spare and went out of the German Cup to third-tier opposition, this Big Cup run represents something of redemption for Thomas Tuchel and co. Harry Kane may yet win a trophy. Maybe then Eric Dier, Bayern’s unlikely hero at the back, said it best: “It was nice,” the former Spurs defender profoundly remarked. “Yeah, it was nice. Yeah, it was nice. Yeah. Nice, nice, nice. Nice to knock [Arsenal] out, to be honest.” Never a truer sentence spoken.


Join Michael Butler from 8pm BST for hot Big Vase minute-by-minute coverage of Atalanta 1-3 Liverpool (agg: 4-3), while Daniel Harris will be on deck at the same time for West Ham 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen (agg: 1-4).


“The FA Cup is our biggest asset and generates over 60% of our revenue to invest into the game so it is critical to secure a strong format for the future. The new schedule ensures the magic of the cup is protected and enhanced, whilst working for the whole of the English game” – FA chief suit Mark Bullingham bugles good news for Premier League clubs the scrapping of replays from next season. Because nothing says “magic of the cup” quite like the new plan to stage fourth-round ties over six nights from Friday to Wednesday. Tranmere vice-chair Nicola Palios has led the inevitable backlash, fuming: “The FA and the Premier League have reached an agreement to suit themselves further at the expense of the rest of the football pyramid; 729 teams compete in the FA Cup. Why is its format being dictated by the Premier League who represent circa three per cent of them?”


Seeing Pompey’s John Mousinho referred to as the ‘Pro Evo version of the Special One’ (yesterday’s Football Daily) got me wondering: what would the Football Daily Pro Evo equivalents be? Mack Russian and Barney Greatending have a nice ring to them” – Tom Murray-Rust.

Re: yesterday’s Memory Lane (full email edition). Footballers do actually still run pubs, even in the modern era. I’d like to nominate Newcastle United’s former French left-back Olivier Bernard and give a big shout out to The Masons Arms in Blyth. It’s always worth name-checking Ollie for an excuse to watch this again and again” – Jason Rohan.

Send letters to Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Jason Rohan.


Football Weekly Extra is here and picks over all the Big Cup drama, along with a look ahead to the coming weekend of action.