Solid and professional is the best and admittedly unimaginative description of Saturday night’s 1-0 friendly win for Real Madrid against Paris Saint Germain. Although the victory against a fairly flaccid French side was a handy one, preseason is all about performances rather than results. This is especially true of the clash in Gothenburg which gave Real Madrid fans even more tea leaves to sift through, in trying to predict the shape of the side in the season to come.
1 - No replacement for Gonzalo Higuain
The Argentinean has just signed a contract with Napoli and it seems that Real manager Carlo Ancelotti may be content to run with plans A, B, and C rather than replace the forward. When Karim Benzema is off the pitch, the first strategy appears to be moving Cristiano Ronaldo into a more advanced position. However, it did not work on Saturday night with the Portuguese poacher struggling to get his shots off or beat the keeper.
At one point, even Kaka and Mesut Ozil found themselves floating about in the number nine spot once Benzema had been taken off. It was a curious plan considering neither player is especially prolific in front of goal. The third strategy was the introduction of former youth team player Alvaro Morata, although it seems as if the other two options will always be tested first.
2 - More patience and possession from Real Madrid
The more snooty sections of Spanish football supporters will look at aspects of Real Madrid’s play on Saturday and find them all too “Italian”—all too patient. Ancelotti’s side attempted to keep possession on many occasions when there were no options up front. A backwards pass was by no means taboo. It was a big change and an improvement on last season when Real tended to poke and probe the opposition defence before promptly giving up and handing possession to their rivals.
3 - Dani Carvajal to be Madrid’s main man
Dani Carvajal was arguably Real's man of the match in Gothenburg. The young fullback, who was bought back from Bayer Leverkusen at the beginning of the summer, kept Javier Pastore quiet as a wee mouse on Madrid’s right flank. The diminutive defender also was brave to go face-to-face with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on more than one occasion. Make that armpit-to-face, in a clash where the Swede was always going to hold the physical advantage. Alvaro Arbeloa would have been watching at home and realising that he has some stiff competition for his spot in the upcoming campaign.
4 - Mesut Ozil put out to pasture
One of the frustrations with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid was the former manager’s tendency to play Ozil on the right flank from time-to-time. Real's new Italian manager seems to be following the same strategy in his desire to get the best out of new signing Isco. This raises the same question with regards to the young playmaker. Isco is all very nice to have in the team, but is the Spaniard a footballer that Real Madrid really needed?
5 - The end of days for Angel di Maria with Madrid
Angel di Maria will be feeling a little frustrated after the first three matches of the club’s preseason. The Argentinean is a proper, card-carrying right-sided midfielder, yet he has been left on the sidelines while teammates are played out of position. Real Madrid may be in need of more cash for the war chest to splash out on a big Galactico signing this summer. If that is the case, Di Maria could well be the asset they sacrifice in order to raise some funds from a sale, as the winger appears unwanted at the Santiago Bernabeu by Ancelotti.