Julen Lopetegui’s Liga debut resulted in a comfortable 2-0 victory over Getafe with Dani Carvajal and Gareth Bale scoring either side of half-time against a side that looked much the same as last season: tight at the back, full of running and designed for low-scoring games at both ends. It wasn’t an evening for showiness and the Bernabéu wasn’t in a party mood with an unusually low attendance. That is not surprising. We’re still in August and Madrid is half-full. The departures of Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mateo Kovacic and, to a greater extent, the absence of a big-name signing have left Madrid fans feeling a little cold. Neither are Getafe a side to get the turnstiles clicking.
Of course, the added star quality of Ronaldo, with his energy, his shots, his gesturing and his obsession, was lacking. On the other hand, the team performed with solvency, pressing harder than is customary, operating as a unit and making the right decisions at every stage. Madrid dropped off a little towards the end of the game, when Getafe attacked with more verve due to the presence of Iván Alejo, a fine winger who took advantage of Marcelo’s marauding to create danger. Madrid can also point to two shots on the woodwork and a penalty appeal as a reward for their efforts. With a little slice of luck the result could have been more convincing. As it was, they settled for a 2-0 win that soothed, but did not inspire.
Lopetegui’s first line-up confirmed pre-season tendencies. Bale-Benzema-Asensio in attack, and the Welshman is clearly eager to take the opportunity to occupy the role of star player. Dani Ceballos will enter into the rotating pool of midfielders, which wasn’t the case last season. In defence, there was nothing new. Keylor Navas started in goal and that is where the great unknown of the season lies. “Courtois did not come here to sit on the bench,” voices at the Bernabéu let slip, but Navas has done nothing to deserve being shunted out of the goal he stood guard over in three consecutive Champions League triumphs. The correct thing to do would be to wait until there is a motive to change keepers, but those closest to the heart of the muddle have suggested Courtois will start against Girona. We’ll have to wait and see.