Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan: What Carlo Ancelotti Learned from ICC Clash
Real Madrid suffered defeat to Inter Milan in California in the International Champions Cup on Saturday, succumbing 3-2 on penalties to the Italian outfit after the sides were left deadlocked at 1-1 following the conclusion of 90 minutes.
Looking fresh after watching the World Cup from afar, Gareth Bale quickly put Carlo Ancelotti's youthful side ahead, smashing in a brilliant long-range effort in the 10th minute to the delight of the crowd at the California Memorial Stadium.
Following an array of substitutions for both teams after the halftime interval, Inter Milan then secured an equaliser through Mauro Icardi from the penalty spot after Ruben Sobrino infringed on Nemanja Vidic in the box from a corner kick.
Despite a number of chances thereafter for both sides, the encounter headed to penalties (extra time isn't allocated in the International Champions Cup). Ultimately, Walter Mazzarri's men claimed victory with Icardi's clinching penalty.
Across the following slides, we examine what Ancelotti might have learned from Saturday's match.
Competition Within the Squad Is Alive and Well
Despite Saturday's encounter with Inter Milan representing a rather low-key outing for Carlo Ancelotti's men, it was clear from the opening minutes that a number of Los Blancos' stars were keen to impress the manager in the team's opening pre-season appearance.
Given Real Madrid's activity in the transfer market so far this summer, it's easy to understand why.
Looking particularly feisty was Daniel Carvajal, Ancelotti's right-back who unluckily missed Spain's World Cup squad and will be eager to maintain a stranglehold of his starting position ahead of Alvaro Arbeloa.
Also displaying an eagerness to compete aggressively was Pepe, regularly disrupting Inter Milan's forays forward and organising the young defenders surrounding him in the absence of Real Madrid's typical back four.
Ahead of another grueling season, healthy competition for places within the squad can only be a positive for Ancelotti.
Loan Spells Could Benefit Young Pre-Season Squad Members
After suffering relegation from Spain's Segunda Division last season, a small concern for Real Madrid Castilla may be the potentially stunted development of the squad in the third tier of Spanish football in 2014-15.
Indeed, given that Carlo Ancelotti saw firsthand last term how influential the club's youth products can be—particularly Alvaro Morata and Jese Rodriguez—the manager might be keen to see some of Real Madrid's youthful talent head elsewhere on loan for the upcoming season.
On Saturday, the Italian deployed players such as Raul de Tomas, Diego Javier Llorente, Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Medran, Ruben Sobrino, Derik Osede and Omar, getting a close look at the next wave of players coming through in the Spanish capital.
Participating in senior football elsewhere will only accelerate the development of such players, meaning loan spells could be in order for a handful of the club's emerging youngsters.
Isco Can Still Play a Role Despite James Rodriguez's Arrival
It seemed telling that Carlo Ancelotti opted for a 4-2-3-1 system for Saturday's match with Inter Milan, allowing Isco the full 90 minutes to demonstrate his abilities as the creative hub of the team's midfield.
In the first half in particular, the young Spaniard put on a bright display, linking up with Gareth Bale nicely and effectively operating between the lines for Los Blancos in attack.
Of course, the arrival of James Rodriguez is likely to displace Isco from his preferred No. 10 role, but that doesn't mean the 22-year-old can't hold down a role for Ancelotti in 2014-15.
Like he did when replacing Sami Khedira in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid in May, Isco could be used in a more central position when Real Madrid go searching for goals against weaker opponents or in late-game situations.
Comfortable in tight situations and possessing superb vision, the rising midfielder could be used as an extra playmaking option from the middle—particularly if Luka Modric or Toni Kroos were sidelined at any stage—provided he's given cover in behind.
Goalkeeping Won't Be a Problem This Season
Real Madrid's goalkeeping situation appears to be in a constant state of flux this summer, with Keylor Navas reportedly on his way to Los Blancos, per Luke Augustus of the Daily Mail, while Iker Casillas seems to be edging closer to an exit from the club, per Sport (h/t/ Jamie Anderson of the Sunday Express).
What seems certain, however, is that Carlo Ancelotti will be well-stocked for goalkeeping talent regardless of transfer activity.
On Saturday, the club's third-choice shot-stopper, Jesus Fernandez, completed a pair of brilliant second-half saves to deny Inter Milan the lead, reminding the manager of his talent in goal despite a severe lack of playing time since his arrival in Madrid.
Amid much transfer speculation regarding his keepers, Ancelotti should have been comforted to see the 26-year-old put in an impressive performance when called upon.
Gareth Bale Is Ready to Take Europe by Storm
Those who watched Gareth Bale closely last season have known for a long time that 2014-15 was going to be his year.
After enduring the expected difficulties associated with a shift in club, country, language and culture, the Welshman overcame an injury-interrupted pre-season to become a vital component of Carlo Ancelotti's outfit last season.
Now settled in and comfortable with life at Real Madrid, a fully fit Bale is ready to take Europe by storm in the coming 12 months.
In Saturday's clash with Inter Milan, that was clearly evident as he dominated the opening half, forcing Samir Handanovic into a number of saves and producing the defining moment of the match when he slammed a long-range shot into the top corner from well outside the penalty area.