Two La Liga matches are past, and Real Madrid’s concerns are all about how long Julen Lopetegui’s independence will last. The new coach played an unimaginable XI against Girona at Montilivi stadium, giving a game to keeper Keylor Navas, Nacho and Marco Asensio, while Thibaut Courtois, Raphaël Varane and Luka Modric – respectively the World Cup’s best goalkeeper, best defender and best player – were sat on the bench. And let us not forget Vinicius Junior’s debut for Castilla, Real Madrid’s second squad, in the Third Division. This was surely not president Florentino Perez’s dreams coming true?
And definitely not Marcelo’s, as the Brazilian ace once again failed to give solidity to his flank. On his back, 18-year-old Pedro Porro found the avenue he wanted to show speed and skills. On his side Girona found their only goal, when Lozano centered to Borja García, and that raises a question: should Marcelo be kept as left full-back? Or does he need more time to recover from this troubled World Cup calendar?
The positional problem is not new, and the solution has been postponed from last season. However, since Real Madrid lost the UEFA Supercup after some of his mistakes, Lopetegui is well aware that no matter how brilliant Marcelo can be with the ball, the 30-year-old idol is not committed to getting back in time to anticipate, tackle and disarm.
For a side which won the Champions League to be always struggling with a lack of cohesive style is concerning, and also explains why Lopetegui is not so eager to send the household names to the field. Around the 60th minute against Girona, Varane replaced Marcelo, and that moved Nacho leftwards. The blockade worked, Real Madrid was imperial over the last half hour, and the 4-1 score line was easily achieved thanks to Benzema (twice), Bale and Ramos.
Marcelo in midfield?
I wonder if someday we will see Marcelo placed closer to the box, where he is creative and dangerous and far from critiques he should be spared of. Just as Cristiano Ronaldo left his winger origins to occupy the center of the box, the Brazilian should be tried as a winger, as a natural evolution of his game.
This would bring some relief to Ramos and whoever defends alongside him, while Casemiro would also be released from one or two of his herculean tasks. A 4-1-4-1 with Marcelo occupying the outside left could be prosperous.
But who would leave a spot? As Casemiro is strategic, this offensive puzzle gets confusing with Kroos, Modric (recently crowned as Europe’s best player, to the hatred of Cristiano’s staff), Isco, Asensio, Bale and Benzema. And what about Mariano Díaz, the Spanish-Dominican striker Florentino took back from Lyon, at a cost of €23.4 million, to endorse Cristiano’s 7 shirt? In Lopetegui’s lab, there are many experiments to be made and a whole squad to motivate.
On Saturday against Leganés (who have scored three goals in two matches, without winning either), the blancos will for sure stick to the thrilling Asensio on the left, Isco as the central playmaker, Kroos closer to Casemiro and Bale flushing on the right. It seems unlikely that the last XI, spearheaded by Benzema, will not start again at Santiago Bernabéu. But what the coach will do in the second half to set his bench on fire for the whole season is the real teaser for the fans.