The German champions won the Audi Cup courtesy a Robert Lewandowski goal. Being a friendly, and considering the relatively advanced preparation and conditioning Bayern Munich had been through in preseason, one cannot read too deeply into a low scoring defeat. A wrong penalty call itself warps the nature of the scoreline. Performances during the match speak for themselves.
1. Carvajal proves his worth
The first half could have been a whole lot worse for Real Madrid. The man who ensured the situation didn’t get out of hand was Danny Carvajal. The youth academy product fought Douglas Costa for every ball, greatly subduing the flairy Brazilian during the first half. Carvajal looked to attack too, and offered energy and intensity that was lacking during the second half of last season. Only when Costa moved into the middle in the second half did he start to look dangerous.
Danilo on the other hand was given a midfield role to play. Lining Danilo up as a right midfielder was one of many experiments carried out by Rafa during the match. Played out of position in a low-key affair, the big signing was unable to impact the game. Regardless, the competition will be intense for the right black slot. You don’t buy a player for 35 million dollars to bench him. At the same time, you don’t bench homegrown players who give you quality. Its the position to watch. Who do you think will win?
2. Nacho, Navas also excel in auditions
Pepe’s reported discomfort gave Nacho the opportunity to get a large amount of minutes under his belt. Subbed on early in the game, the former Castilla player impressed, dealing with Bayern’s attacking threat in a no-nonsense manner. The 25 year old looked most comfortable playing alongside the (relative) veteran Sergio Ramos. Experience matters. Take note of the fact that this is the same man who started in the 0-4 drubbing at the hands of Atletico Madrid, and a whole new picture emerges. Like I said- experience matters.
Not to forget the forgotten man Keylor Navas. David De Gea’s reported arrival means the Costa Rican international will leave the club. But does Madrid need De Gea when they already have an experienced, proven goalkeeper in Navas? Likely not. Keylor made multiple saves, the most notable being off a screamer from that man David Alaba. Convincing from the Costa Rican, but will it be enough to convince Florentino Perez?
3. 4-4-2 off the ball?
Los Blancos started the match playing a 4-2-3-1. This shape was visible particularly when pressing. (Read: only when pressing). Off the ball, the side morphed into a Atletico Madrid-esque 4-4-2. Like the previous game vs the Spurs, but only in defense. The wide midfielders (Lucas Vasquez and Denis Cheryshev) pulled back to form a midfield 4 with the holding midfielders. The central attacking midfielder and striker lined up in front. The back 4 held a flat line (eerily like Atletico, but it was witnessed last season too). The shape held itself even amidst intense Bavarian pressure, and looks to be a versatile plan B (or A) which Benitez could use.
4. Kroos is revitalized
A blistering free kick. A solid shot glanced wide. A rocket of a long shot. For anyone who watched Real Madrid play last season, these are likely not words you would have used to describe Toni Kroos. But there he was, doing just that against his former club. The German maestro looked comfortable alongside the subdued yet disciplined Casemiro and had a go at goal multiple times, only to be denied by Manuel Neuer.
Kroos is no longer plagued by fatigue. And it showed. Given slightly more cover, Kroos looked lively whenever Real had the ball. That was despite conceding possession to the Bavarians. This looks set to be the real breakout season for the German at Real Madrid, as rest will allow him to dictate the tempo of far more games (and unleash a few more screamers while he is at it).
5. Lack of attacking spark shows “BBC”s importance
They say that you only realize something’s importance when you don’t have it. Aptly put. In this scenario, the lack of Real Madrid’s superstar attacking trio meant that Real Madrid couldn’t play a counter-attacking game. Lucas Vasquez and Denis Cheryshev simply aren’t the same. Isco isn’t much of a counter-attacker. Jese was at times isolated up front. Benitez took the opportunity to fine tune the defense, and give players some match time. James Rodriguez and even Luka Modric played as strikers at points, such was the nature of the game. But one thing is clear- each member of the BBC gives Real Madrid a dynamic attacking presence.
He is a buccaneer who fights for the cause, and is a superior defensive presence when compared to Marcelo. But Alvaro Arbeloa is no left back. The veteran was given time on the pitch, and struggled to hold his flank down. An injury to Marcelo and left back goes from ‘very strong position’ to ‘weakness.’ Yes, really. Fabio Coentrao or not, its time to break the bank for a new left back. Jose Luis Gaya anyone? Or will Perez covet Azpilicueta?