Real Madrid's old guard reposted with new recruits in the wings
With nine players in the starting XI against Valladolid that were also in the 2014/15 team that saw the end of Ancelotti, alarm bells are already ringing.
As the Real Madrid players stepped onto the Bernabéu turf for the first time this season, it was not as had been expected. There were none of the new faces that had been signed during the summer, nor was there a change in the dynamics that had been seen last campaign. In fact, the team was somehow practically the same as five seasons ago, with nine of the starting eleven in the Madrid side of 2014/15.
Only Courtois and Casemiro (the Brazilian at that time on loan to Porto) were not part of that team that was managed in the second spell for Carlo Ancelotti. That season was a turning point for the club. Madrid dispensed with the Italian coach after he failed to bring any silverware into the cabinet, and Rafa Benitez arrived. The Spaniard didn't last long, however, and Zinedine Zidane stepped up in January before leading them to a remarkable three consecutive Champions Leagues.
Same old for Zidane's Madrid
Four managers (Benítez, Zidane, Lopetegui and Solari) and four years later, everything feels very similar at the Bernabéu. In what looked to be a summer of change, something many saw as a revolution, the weekend's home bow in matchday two saw none of the signings take their place in the line-up. Luka Jovic came on from the bench and crashed a header into the crossbar, Diego Militao stayed seated for the duration, and Ferland Mendy had not been included in the squad. Eden Hazard and Rodrygo remain sidelined through injury.
It is accepted that Zidane is without Hazard, the biggest of the summer signings, although this stumble so early on has alarms bells ringing once again at the Bernabéu. The opening victory in Vigo had suggested that the bad sensations of a disappointing preseason were unfounded. In fact, the feeling was so positive within the club, that a balanced squad with sufficient depth had already been assembled to allow them to be competitive in all tournaments without the need for more reinforcements. How quickly this can change, and this draw against Valladolid has reopened the debate about whether the team needs another big injection (Neymar, for example) to reignite the squad for Zidane's new project.
James and Bale: another chance
A positive for Zizou is that he confirmed he will have two players that were not present at the start of preseason: James Rodríguez and Gareth Bale. Both started and both gave good accounts of themselves, at least in attitude. The Colombian was one of the best for Madrid although he couldn't last the full match, while the Welshman gave a good showing for the first half, reconciling with those in the stands after the regular whistles that he endured during stages of last season.
In the absence of new signings being available, Zidane has reposted the old guard, one that saw the back of Ancelotti. The big difference, he will hope, is that there are fresh recruits waiting in the wings to provide a new front.
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