A Ronaldo-less Juventus have looked solid in the preseason. In what is considered a toothless attack for the Italians, Favilli has found the goals and Bernardeschi has been given more freedom to show his talent. Behind them, Juventus have nearly their first string with the likes of Pjanic, Khedira, Can, Chiellini, Barzagli, and Alex Sandro all available. New signing Joao Cancelo has looked the part, providing an assist against the MLS All Stars and proving his versatility in both defense and attack. Despite the four games played already, despite the strong squad, and despite the fortunate goal afforded to them early in the match courtesy of Dani Carvajal, Madrid or rather “Baby Madrid” as the Spanish press have dubbed them, sliced through Juventus with ease. Gareth Bale would score a cracking volley to level the score before halftime, while Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior linked up with their exuberance and dynamism to put Juventus to the sword.
Opening Half Provides little In Attacking Opportunities:
Lopetegui started with a 4-3-3 giving the start to returning internationals like Keylor, Nacho, Carvajal, Kroos, and Isco. Once again, Sergio Reguilón of Castilla was placed at left back—this time from the start and he did not put a foot wrong. Right from the outset, Juventus formed a solid defensive unit, mirroring Madrid’s 4-3-3. Their defensive line of confrontation was held at the top of the center circle, if Madrid stepped past that line, then Juventus pressed as a unit. Juventus did a good job in the opening half of keeping their shape and timing their press. Madrid would dominate possession, but produce virtually nothing in terms of attacking opportunities. Lopetegui had Kroos drop deep between the center-halves to pick up the ball and build play. With Kroos dictating play, there were moments of class sprinkled in a rather dull half. Isco would roam centrally from the left flank, pick up the ball and look to slip through Gareth Bale on the run. Isco’s position would then be occupied by Karim Benzema. Lopetegui allows players the freedom to roam, but in return the position must be occupied by another teammate.
Juventus scored their goal in part to luck, but Madrid’s whole shape was too far shifted to the left side of the pitch. Dani Carvajal was tucked in too far and did not have enough time to get to Joao Cancelo who drove a cross into the box only to be deflected in by the ailing Carvajal. It was a very poor performance from the Spanish right back, it seems his World Cup form is lingering. In fairness to Carvajal, few played well in the first half. Though, Dani’s counterpart on the left, Sergio Reguilón, made a lung bursting attacking run where he received the ball on the counter and cut in from the left to unleash blistering shot towards Szczesny’s net.
Shortly after Reguilón’s attack, Gareth Bale made his mark. Lopetegui’s Madrid had been attempting to press throughout the game and were rewarded late in the half. Juventus coughed up possession and Bale unleashed a volley from outside the box that rippled into the top corner. The game was level heading into halftime.
“Baby Madrid” Put Juventus to the Sword
At halftime, Lopetegui made five changes bringing on Asensio for Benzema, Vinicius for Isco, Vazquez for Bale, Llorente for Kroos, and Odriozola for Carvajal. Immediately there was an uptick in energy and enthusiasm from Los Blancos. Vinicius JR and Asensio provided the dynamism and vertical outlets that was very much lacking in the first half. Those two in particular formed an incredible partnership. Asensio operated as a false nine while Vinciuis rampaged down the flank. Madrid’s second goal came on the counter, Vinicius JR was played through past the Juventus defense with space
to run and run he did—his speed is resounding. Once in the Juventus box, Vinicius kept his composure and slotted a pass straight to Asensio to tap home. Madrid was in control.
Each players level went up in the second half. Players like Ceballos and Valverde were able to take control and express themselves. Dani Ceballos will look to have a more prominent role under Lopetegui, and he was crucial in the build of the third goal. Evading three Juventus defenders, Ceballos calmly dribbles his way into space finding Vinciuis JR. The Brazilian then shows his skills, dancing on the ball and bamboozling the opposition before returning possession to Ceballos who switched to Odriozola on the right flank. Odriozola found Vazquez who slipped a ball into Asensio in the box. One subtle touch, and Asensio beat two defenders and toe-poked past Szczesny for his second goal. “Baby Madrid” had brought the energy, fire-power, and dynamism. It may be preseason, but Juventus probably feel like Madrid is their kryptonite.
A rather dull first half was brought to a close by a vicious Gareth Bale volley. Dani Carvajal and Isco were slow to pick up the pace and are still working into fitness. Sergio Reguilón has staked his claim for promotion to the first team with two solid performances. Against Juventus, he played the full 90 minutes and hardly put a foot wrong. Lopetegui seems to trust both Regui and Valverde, who also put in a full 90 minute shift. The second half was all Madrid. The young and dynamic group of Asensio, Vinicius JR, Vazquez, Llorente, and Odriozola completely turned the game on its head. Asensio thrived in a false nine role, bagging two goals thanks to great play from Vinciuis JR and Dani Ceballos. This may well be the year that the youngsters take the step up and make their mark at Madrid. Overall, a solid preseason victory to pickup confidence and grow fitness levels.