Calrlo Ancelotti had already announced after the win against Eintracht Frankfurt that there would be changes for the league opener, and so it was. Apart from the selection of Lucas Vázquez, a natural replacement for the injured Carvajal, the Italian coach made four changes from the team that started in Helsinki: Nacho and Rüdiger as new center backs and Tchouameni and Camavinga in midfield to give some rest time to Modric and Casemiro. Up front he stuck with Valverde, Benzema and Vinicius, an attacking trio that offers the team to play with a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formation. Aware that Barcelona had dropped points after their draw at Camp Nou against Rayo, the champions made their debut at the Power Horse Stadium, formerly Estadio Mediterráneo.
Test of character
Almeria’s promotion team doesn’t really feature any household names and the club have had issues in being able to register their summer reinforcements, but always created a threat on the break with the pace of both Sadiq and Ramazani always a danger up front. It didn’t take long for home side to score as Ramazani latched on to a great pass from Eguaras that caught Rüdiger out of position. Madrid started off chasing the game and despite dominating the contest in terms of possession they really failed to trouble Fernando in the Almeria goal. The visitors racked up twelve corners in a first half, in which Camavinga and Tchouameni failed to sparkle with Benzema not at his best. Nacho, Kroos, Vinicius, Valverde and Lucas Vázquez all delivered solid performances as the teams went in at the interval.
Modric saves the day
Ancelotti decided that it was time for Modric to get involved and the Croatian was a half-time switch with Hazard later brought on to bolster the attack with Tchouameni and Camavinga making way. The improvement in quality soon translated to the equalizer after a marauding run from the ever industrious Vinicius, with Lucas Vázquez first to latch on to a breaking ball in the Almeria box. The home side wilted and with Sadiq and Ramazani already subbed, Madrid capitalized on their superiority and secured maximum points from a stunning free-kick from Alaba, with the strike, the Austrian defender’s first touch after coming on for Mendy. With the points in the bag, Vinicius and Kroos were rested as Ceballos and Casemiro got some playing time and the clock ran down with Almeria never really extending Courtois. Three points for Real Madrid, plus the two that Barça dropped although there were question marks surrounding performances from Rüdiger, Camavinga and Tchouameni.