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Las Vegas Clásico leaves Real Madrid with doubts

There was satisfaction in Madrid for the first appearances of Tchouameni and Rüdiger, but the debate continues over Asensio and Ceballos.

Las Vegas (United States), 24/07/2022.- The Real Madrid squad poses for photos before a pre-season game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 23 July 2022. (Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/JOE BUGLEWICZ

“This is a better squad than last season,” were the words of Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, looking to send an immediate and positive message at the end of the pre-season Clásico in which Barcelona got the upper hand. He was highlighting the continued peace of mind that exists at the club, within the squad and the fans, who all know that they are current Spanish and European champions. And the first outings of Rüdiger and Tchouameni, in such a demanding game and with so little preparation, left a very good feeling for all concerned.

Real Madrid’s new boys fighting for a place

Ancelotti was intelligent and dispelled any uncertainties at the earliest opportunity. He will not doubt the men who have just won the Champions League and LaLiga, when they started the season favourites for neither. The starting eleven for the new season was already pretty much sorted and the signings have been complementary to it. Or, at least, until they prove otherwise.

He will not undo the Alaba-Militao defensive pairing, and has said so publicly, meaning that Rüdiger will have to fight for a position (as a central defender, now mistakes like Militao’s will weigh heavily, or with Mendy on the left). Ancelotti’s other big challenge is getting Tchouameni to reach a level where he can compete for a starting berth with Casemiro.

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Asensio and Ceballos in Madrid decisions

The Clásico also served to definitively light the fuse of the only two cases that Madrid has pending in its immediate planning, the futures of Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos.

Both contracts end in 2023 and the club has not offered extensions to either of them, thus suggesting rather firmly that the exit door is open for them. But both put in strong performances against Barcelona in the US ‘friendly’ and the questions now, inevitably, fall to the the Italian manager, who didn’t commit either way. Always in tune with the club, he admitted that both Asensio and Ceballos are in a tough situation if they are looking for minutes, because the competition “has increased”, but behind closed doors we are aware that he wants them both to stay.

As an old football dog in the game, Carletto knows that all hands on deck, or feet on pitch, will likely be valuable come the season where they are involved in six competitions, with the risks associated with a World Cup mingled in. And that’s why he ended up kicking the subject away: “That question is for the club,” he repeated twice.

The debate on the number nine position is still clearly open, even more so after this Clásico, where Madrid couldn’t get a shot on goal (Valverde coming closest with a wonderful strike onto the post). And on the back of that, Ancelotti left those watching and analyzing with a line that would have caused uproar had he not ended the season with those aforementioned titles: “We miss something when Benzema is not there.”

That remark came after having tested Hazard and even Rodrygo in the Frenchman’s position before giving in to Mariano, with whom he clearly does not have much faith. But before too many rumours of striking additions surfaced, the coach settled things down: “The squad is closed,” he said.

At the moment, Asensio is in that squad and the ten goals he contributes on average per season with him...