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Real Madrid have a viable Plan B again


An hour with the first XI and half an hour with the back-ups, and always superior to Juventus. That is a quick way of summing up the friendly between Real Madrid and the Serie A giants at a sold-out Rose Bowl. European football is gathering steam in the US and full stadiums provide a wonderful backdrop to these games broadcast in the early hours on the old continent and in which the main interest is in seeing novelties among the competing teams. In the case of Madrid, the new boys were reserved until the final half hour, except for Antonio Rüdiger, who was introduced just after the break, a nod from Carlo Ancelotti that told the Germany international he is neither a bench-warmer nor a guaranteed starter, but somewhere in between. It is clear the Madrid manager rates his new defender, but equally cleat that he feels secure at the back with the partnership of Éder Militão and David Alaba, who stepped up last season following the departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

The side Ancelotti sent out to start the game was the same one that started the Champions League final against Liverpool, including Fede Valverde, whose tireless work rate and fierce shot has gradually relieved Marco Asensio and Rodrygo of their first XI status. I enjoyed the fact that in an important pre-season friendly Ancelotti laid out his stall in front of his opposite number, Massimiliano Allegri, as if to say: “This is my strongest hand.” And Madrid played in a manner consummate with their prestige. Ancelotti’s side were better than Juve in every respect and went into the break 1-0 up courtesy of a penalty, provoked by Vinicius and converted by Karim Benzema. In the 15 minutes after the resumption of the game, Madrid continued to run rings around Juve, who never really clicked into gear: 1-0 started to look a little flattering for the Italians.

Madrid’s Plan B gives Ancelotti solid foundation

And the back-up unit did the same thing after being introduced en masse in the 62nd minute, Ancelotti making nine changes in one go. The second goal came, from the unlikely appearance of Jesús Vallejo in the area, the canterano feeding Asensio, who is still clinging onto his place in the squad by dint of scoring goals. The supporters in the stands even rewarded the occasional long and stylish period of Madrid possession with a chorus of “olés.” The second-string midfield of Dani Ceballos, Aurélien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga looked good, as did all the substitutes, with the possible exception of Eden Hazard, Benzema’s apparent understudy this season, who is doing what he can after so many injury problems, even if what he can do at the moment is not much. Apart from that, everything seems to be nicely set up for Madrid this season, who now have a Plan B that is almost as good as the squad from 2017.


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