Not Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr: Luka Modric is the Real Madrid player that Chelsea should fear the most
Luka Modric spent most of the first leg of Real Madrid's Champions League last-16 tie with Liverpool doing the familiar things. He drifted into pockets of space, found the open man, and occasionally busted out an impossible, trivela pass. All of this happened without the Croatia midfielder really having to break a sweat.
And then, in the 67th minute, he decided to accelerate. Modric nicked the ball off Fabinho's toe, dribbled around the Brazilian, shrugged off 19-year-old Stefan Bajcetic, and slid Vinicius Jr through on goal. Karim Benzema eventually applied the finishing touch to the move, but it began with Modric's one real sprint of the match.
The goal was the fifth of a 5-2 Real Madrid romp at Anfield. Although Benzema grabbed a brace and Vinicius caught the eye, it was Modric's subtle excellence that really dictated things, his scientific management of energy that paced a rampant Madrid side.
It's a performance all too familiar for Madrid's wide selection of defeated foes in the Champions League over the years. Benzema may get on the scoresheet, Vinicius may snatch the ankles, and Thibaut Courtois might make the saves, but it is Modric's magnificence that really lifts this Madrid side on European nights.
As such, he's the man Chelsea must stop if they are to have any chance of causing a shock at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.