A very well-known Real Madrid side
Nine of the eleven Real Madrid players who started on Saturday have been at the club since 2014-15 as Zidane returns to the old guard against Valladolid.
The presentation of Madrid ahead of their LaLiga home opener against Real Valladolid on Saturday was unexpected. There were no new faces in the team and the entire dynamic of the side remained the same. The team is basically exactly the same as the last five years: nine of the starting eleven were starters during the 2014-15 season. All of the players apart from Courtois and Casemiro (who was on loan at Porto at the time) played during this season, which was the second of Carlo Ancelotti's reign. It would be Ancelotti's last season after they won no titles and Benitez took over before he left in January. Zidane arrived soon after and along came his three Champions Leagues.
Four managers (Benítez, Zidane, Lopetegui and Solari) and four years later and everything remains the same. What looked like it would be a summer of change, of revolution, didn't transpire. Not one of the summer arrivals was in the starting eleven at the Bernabéu on Saturday and only Jovic, who came on as a second half sub, saw any minutes. Mendy didn't make the squad and Militao didn't play a single minute, while Hazard and Rodrygo recover from injuries.
It's obvious that Zidane is missing Hazard, the big bet of the summer, although the first couple of stumbles in the opening weeks have raised some alarm bells at the Bernabéu. The first win of the season against Vigo dimmed the bad sensations after a poor preseason. Inside the club, in fact, they seemed happy with the idea that the squad was balanced enough to fight for titles this season. The draw against Valladolid could open up that debate again over who could come in. Neymar is the man mentioned most to ignite the flame during Zidane's second project.
The positive news for Zizou is that he will have two new signings that he wasn't counting on during the preseason: James and Bale. The pair started on Saturday. The Colombian was one of the better players for Madrid but ran out of steam after an hour and was replaced due to an injury niggle. The Welshman got reacquianted with the Bernabéu having been whistled at the end of last season and he had a very effective first half. With the lack of impact from the new signings, Zidane has returned to the old guard and those who started the journey at Madrid with Ancelotti many years ago.
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