Real Madrid post-Audi Cup worries: defence, Hazard...
The annual Audi Cup has done little in reassuring fans that Real Madrid are ready for the season ahead with question marks over the defence and forward lines.
Five pre-season games played in July...three defeats, one draw and only one win, recording 11 goals for and an alarming 16 goals conceded (an average of 3.2 per match). This has been a pre-season campaign to forget for Real Madrid with the 3rd-4th place Audi Cup game and 5-3 win in Munich against Fenerbahçe offering a brief glimmer of hope for Zidane as he prepares his side for the fast approaching 2019-20 LaLiga season.
The Audi Cup has shown us just how good Keylor Navas is with the Costa Rican delivering a solid display in the semi-final defeat against Tottenham with the keeper instrumental in ensuring that it was just the solitary Harry Kane goal that ensured the 1-0 margin of victory.
His performances in Munich, coupled with Courtois' injury will re-open the starting keeper at the Bernabéu argument and resign Ukrainian keeper Lunin to third choice. The Costa Rican was on the receiving end of nine of the goals conceded by Madrid in July with Courtois shipping six and Lunin beaten just once in his brief time between the sticks.
Real Madrid traditionally are famed for their offensive style of football with this attacking ideology always susceptible to be punished by finely tuned attacking rivals. Clear defensive lapses have been witnessed more than once in the pre-season games and a goals against tally of 16 against is something that will concern Zidane.
The second Fenerbahce goal in particular will anger the French coach with striker Dirar finding himself in acres of space before finding time to shot past Navas with the aid of a deflection. Nacho was the only defender who redeemed himself in Munich with the most expensive defender in the club's history Militao expected to bolster this constantly vulnerable area of the pitch for Zidane's Real Madrid.
Many observers watching Real Madrid's pre-season activity have rued the absence of Casemiro with the Brazilian returning to training later following his involvement with Brazil in the 2019 Copa América. Neither Marcos Llorente nor Valverde (natural replacements for the Brazilian) have been up to the task of marshalling the centre of the pitch with the same authority as Casemiro which will also add to Zidane's concerns.
The Casemiro-Kroos-Modric trio in the centre of the park may also lack the legs to dominate this area of the pitch for 90 minutes and this is one of the main concerns and key in Zidane's desire to bring in the 26-year-old Paul Pogba to assist in a central role.
The Real Madrid front line during the five pre-season games have generated as many doubts as they have hopes. Benzema's goals in Munich have been a source of optimism but many suggest that the Frenchman may undergo a situation as was witnessed in the 2018-19 season where the striker was prolific against lesser sides but failed to hit the target on the bigger stage. Mariano is unlikely to feature in Zidane's plans despite impressing (and scoring) in the Fenerbahçe game. Jovic will need time but looked rusty before succumbing to injury in the Atleti match. Hazard too needs more playing time with the Belgian looking sluggish and corpulent.
The younger players however have stepped up to the plate with Vinicius looking sharp against Fenerbahçe and his compatriot Rodrygo also delivering an accomplished performance against Tottenham. Japanese teenager Kubo has also been one of the brighter sparks for Zidane with the former FC Tokyo midfielder playing with a poise, confidence and maturity that belies his age.
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