Real Madrid lined up with Isco, Alonso and Illarra in midfield in a line-up that seemed designed to counter-attack. With Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao still out of action, Arbeloa and Carvajal were Madrid's fullbacks. There were no other unexpected or notable inclusions. Pepe and Ramos were in defence. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were in the attack.
The First Half...
...was poor. From both sides, though at different times. For the first quarter hour Madrid were very dominant, but it was hard to come to any conclusions about how well they were actually playing because Almeria played so poorly they may as well not have been on the pitch. Home advantage seemed, initially, non-existent for 10 outfield players doing their best impression of ghosts. They didn't press, didn't really defend, didn't seem interested in closing down passing lanes, and failed to make up for it by showing any interest in attacking. They didn't even really bother fouling Madrid's players in a performance that must have irritated their supporters.
Madrid's goal, which was scored early by Cristiano Ronaldo in the third minute off Isco's speculative, bouncing pass into the area, was well taken, at any rate.
For the remainder of the first half Madrid created half-chances and seemed to have no particular style of play. There was no noticeable attempt to play on the counter, and although Madrid dominated possession, it was largely sterile. There were 6 shots on goal, but no real sense that Madrid was creating any great danger.
The Whites' inability to take advantage of their superior start suited the initially sleepy Almeria, who had several fine attempts on goal, all of them saved by Diego Lopez, as they began to grow into the game.
The Second Half
For the first 20 minutes of the second half it seemed as though fans would be subjected to performances from both teams that were as dull as the first until Jese (on for Cristiano Ronaldo who was subbed off as a precaution after a mild knock) found Benzema who scored a lovely curling shot.
For Madrid it was like a shot in the arm and Almeria went back to playing like ghosts. 10 minutes later Gareth Bale scored and Isco put in the fourth a few minutes later with the game put beyond all doubt. Substitute Morata, off Casemiro's pass, then scored the most beautiful goal of the night - chipping it over Almeria's keeper in a gorgeus individual piece of skill.
The kids are all right, and all of them padded their stats in ways that must have been personally satisfyingD. Carvajal played very well and so did Jese in his cameo. Casemiro, back after a long absence, put in a creditable appearance. Isco got a confidence-boosting fourth goal after not getting much playing time for the past two months. Morata's chipped goal - even against a shamefully bad Almeria - was simply beautiful. The enthusiasm and desire to play well demonstrated by Madrid's youngsters was the bright spot in an otherwise intolerably dull game.
It would seem that Ancelotti has decided Isco or Modric will play, but not both. That should mean some interesting times ahead as he varies his formation.
This game, in general, does not bode well for the league as a whole. Like watching Levante roll over on the opening day, watching Almeria play with so little ambition or drive in their own stadium was not edifying. The scoreline may give the impression Madrid were greatly dominant, or had to work particularly hard to score, but it was an unsatisfying result, Madrid were able to play long sections of the game at sloppily and at near-walking pace and still score. Neutrals will have turned off this game with 20 minutes to go, if they hadn't already.
This was no advertisement for the league, and it is unfortunate for Madrid that they can only play what's in front of them.