Preseason is not a time to judge a team harshly, but if and when they lose, it’s always interesting to understand why. Carlo Ancelotti put out a lineup with a good number of regular starters like Casillas, Modrić, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos. However, the lack of form was noticeable. The team did play better with them on the field, especially in the first half of the game. Bale was threatening, Isco was creative, Xabi set the pace and Coentrão was a good resource on the left side.
Still missing almost half of its regular starters, the team’s defeat wasn’t entirely bad for Ancelotti. Their first official match is in less than two weeks, and their last friendly will be on August 2nd against Manchester United. Roughly eight or nine days of training before the European Supercup could prove to be good for Madrid. Still, we must first analyze what’s happening now.
Gareth Bale is in Top Form
The Welsh star hasn’t even reached his first anniversary as a Madrid player, but he’s already won two titles and hit double-digits in the assist and goal departments. Last season he was criticized for his irregular start, but he didn’t participate in preseason, he came in with the team already on their fourth La Liga fixture. This season is different, since he didn’t play in the World Cup and took care of himself during his time off.
Bale already scored against Inter Milan and has been the main attacking reference in these two games. He may not be in top-level tournament form yet, but he’s shown an exceptional physical form and a thirst for more. The European Supercup will be played in his hometown of Cardiff and it’s a day he hopes to be successful at. If he keeps up with great training sessions and steady playing time, he could be one of Madrid’s best players this season.
Isco and Illarramendi Need to Improve
Isco played against Roma as a false 9 and in the midfield against Inter. While he’s shown that he can provide his teammates with good passes, he hasn’t had luck with shot accuracy and suffered from intermittent participation. It’s only preseason, but with James Rodríguez very close to joining Madrid’s training activities, Isco needs to take advantage of the minutes that Ancelotti is giving him or he will be benched.
This is also the case for Illarramendi. The young midfielder arrived at Madrid with a heavy price tag, but was seen as the natural heir to Xabi Alonso’s spot. However, he failed to impress in his first season and was even blamed for some bad team moments during the season. Asier comes off as shy on the pitch, because when he finds a ball, he immediately tries to pass it to someone else, as if he’s afraid of being more of a playmaker.
We saw him give the ball to Alonso quite frequently, but he needs to be the one providing those long balls and set the pace of the game. He’s almost definitely not going to be a regular starter, but if he wants to stay and not be sold or loaned out, he must take risks. Both of them have played all the minutes possible in the preseason.
Youth Players Have a Bright Future
Real Madrid always has exciting and talented players in their youth system, but they rarely end up becoming a first team starter. Not since the days of Casillas, Raúl and Guti have we seen players stay and fight for a spot in the starting XI. We’ve seen impressive players recently like Nacho, Jesé, Morata and Carvajal. However, from the last two, Morata was sold this season and Carvajal had to play a season away from Madrid in order to gain the club’s desire in bringing him back. Europe is filled with former Madrid youth system players.
Negredo, Mata, Soldado, Borja Valero and Callejón are just some of the many players that have found success away from the Santiago Bernabéu. Nevertheless, these two friendly matches showed us some players with potential to help the first team. Diego Llorente is a great utility player in defense, much like Nacho and has shown that he can be trusted. Álvaro Medrán is another potential star, with flashes of classy moves, he’s similar to Modrić in his playing style and has a powerful long-range shot. Vázquez, Marcos Llorente, Mascarell and de Tomás are others that have a good future ahead of them.
Overall, it’s only been two games for Real Madrid, but there’s enough material to start making some decisions about the way the team must go in this very long season ahead. Without closing the door to potential new signings and with the exit door most definitely seeing some action, the team isn’t 100% complete.