The weekly summary
Amidst all the transfers rumors, intensified by the Premier’s league closure to incorporate new players this week, Real Madrid finished their pre-season with two matches against Salzburg and Roma on Wednesday and Sunday. There were no new signings to the squad, but a few changes to the jersey numbers with Eden Hazard finally receiving the long awaited legendary 7, much for the delight of the fans, and James Rodriguez receiving number 16. The other new incorporations this summer kept the numbers they’ve been wearing throughout the preseason, with Militao keeping number 3, Mendy 23, Jovic 18, and Rodrygo 27. The other change was Mariano that switched to number 24 after leaving 7 for Hazard.
The match against Salzburg began with a surprise formation on Real Madrid’s side, with Zidane choosing a 3-5-2 formed by Courtois on goal, Militao, Ramos, and Varane as the back line, Marcelo and Carvajal taking the wings, Casemiro, Kroos, and Isco forming the midfield and Hazard and Benzema up front. The return of Casemiro to the lineup brought immediate results, bringing balance between the defense and midfield, and solidifying the defensive efforts with Casemiro being an impenetrable wall. The first half left good sensations for the whites, and would see new galactico Hazard score his first goal as a blanco.
A corner in favor of Salzsburg would end up in the hands of Thibout who quickly would give it to Benzema. Karim on his end would take no time to see Hazard making a move and with one quick pass with the exterior of his foot would find the Belgian. Hazard would break the defense looking for his right foot, and with a great shot from distance would find the back of the net. A counter attack executed to perfection. Real would enjoy many more opportunities in the first half to increase the scoreboard, but would not be able to capitalize.
On the second half, with the substitution of Casemiro, Madrid lost their superiority in the midfield and Salzsburg began to create danger. All the fears from previous matches return to Madrid fans as they saw their team back to their weak defending. At the end, neither team would manage to score and Madrid would take they victory 1-0.
On Sunday, against Rome, Zidane repeated formation with the 3-5-2, this time with Nacho taking the place of Ramos, Valverde taking the place of Kroos, and Modric coming in for Isco. This time things would work as well for Madrid, as Roma was creating danger and enjoying chances early on in the game, having great facilities to win the backs of the Madrid defenders. Courtois kept busy and was key preventing Roma from opening the score.
It was Madrid though who would draw blood first, with Marcelo scoring after receiving a great pass from Luka Modric. Roma would answer back at the feet of Perotti who sent a low cross to the back of the net with Courtois having no chance to stop it. Once more the Roma players had broken the defensive line with ease.
Madrid would take the lead once more, after a cross from Marcelo was headed to goal by Casemiro who not only was making an impact on defense, but was very participative upfront as well. Roma would tie the game again before the half, this time Dzeko being the one to score. The first half showed a lot of insecurities at the back on Real Madrid’s part, but a few good plays upfront.
The second half would see an improvement on Zidane’s players, being more solid and organized on their defensive efforts, but with a lack of accuracy up front. Players like Vinicius, Jovic, or even Bale who returned to the squad after missing the previous games, had chances to score but could not get the ball inside the goal. Neither team would score and the game was decided on penalties, where Marcelo missed the last one hitting the crossbar and by doing so gave Roma the victory.
The pre-season is over and Madrid has run out of practice matches to get the team ready for the new season. There are still plenty of questions and doubts about this team, especially on the defensive end, but there have been some small improvements upfront. The transfer window in Spain won’t close until September 2nd so Real could make a few last-minute signings to improve the squad.
The league starts this Sunday with Madrid visiting Galicia to face Celta de Vigo, always a tough match. Tests and practices are over, now the moment of truth begins for this team that is eager to return to glory after a forgettable year and a pre-season that it seems has left more questions than answers.