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Immediate Reaction: Bayern Munich 3 - 1 Real Madrid

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FC Bayern v Real Madrid - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Bayern Munich beat Real Madrid 3 - 1 (Tolisso, Lewandowski, Gnabry; Rodrygo) in the team’s first match of the preseason. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

Real Madrid’s first preseason game ends with a heavy loss in Houston against a sharp and more experienced Bayern Munich side. Zinedine Zidane, as he’s done in previous preseason games, made wholesale changes at half-time — replacing all 11 players on the pitch. Tonight’s second half showcased mostly youth team players and young signings, with the only four senior players from last season on the pitch being Keylor Navas, Nacho, Lucas Vazquez, and Vinicius Jr. Bayern, on the flip-side, kept a strong lineup throughout, and it was no real surprise they built a three-goal lead in the second half as Real Madrid’s makeshift backline looked positionally lost — struggling with incoming crosses as well as their build-up play.

To circle this back to the beginning of the game, Zidane fielded an exciting 4-2-3-1, where Toni Kroos and Luka Modric navigated the base of the midfield, and Karim Benzema spearheaded an attack with Eden Hazard, Isco, and Marco Asensio behind him. There was a lot of creativity in the team. As it unfolded, we saw Asensio drop a bit deeper defensively to help in transition (and a couple quick interceptions to stop Bayern attacks early on), and Isco playing slightly higher up the pitch. Hazard, who was on the left side, didn’t have many touches early on, but would eventually grow into the game.

The game was end-to-end, with neither team defending particularly well, and both teams took turns bypassing each other’s midfield. Benzema got into good goalscoring positions, but couldn’t finish his chances. Hazard had some heavy touches, but also linked up well with Benzema and Marcelo, and played a beautiful pass from the left wing into the box in the 34th.

It was Bayern eventually who took their chance to open the scoring. During a Bayern press, Kroos played a pass to Modric in a tight space, and Real Madrid lost the ball — leading to a nice one-two between Muller and Coman, and Tolisso — unmarked at the far post — scoring after two attempts:

In the second half, there was obvious excitement in seeing a front quartet of Luka Jovic, Takefusa Kubo, Rodrygo Goes, and Vinicius Jr. Some water was thrown on that, though, as Zidane’s line-up shuffle also saw a relatively raw back-four of Adrian de la Fuente, Nacho, Javier Fernandez, and Ferland Mendy. In front of them was Jaime Seone as really the only pure central midfielder, with Lucas Vazquez also entering the pitch. The attackers, particularly Jovic, were isolated — as no one from the back could really generate a proper build-up. It should be noted here that Kubo’s performance during all this chaos was really impressive. It was him dropping deep that progressed Real Madrid up the pitch. He combined well with Mendy to provide some press-resistance, and slung a couple really slick through-balls. He was comfortable in tight spaces, and as we saw in the Copa America, was confident in feeling he belongs with the elite.

The back-four in the second half particularly struggled dealing with crosses coming into the box. Both of Bayern’s goals in the second half show the pandemonium. On one sequence, Robert Lewandowski takes advantage of a high line before turning Fernandez; and in the other, Serge Gnabry finds himself unmarked in the box after a Seoane giveaway:

That made it 3 - 0, at which point, the cursed Sven Ulreich saw a red card — as Rodrygo Goes went down with no contact on a breakaway:

The ensuing free-kick, uh, led to this:

This was fun, so long as you don’t fall into the trap of thinking pre-season is a premonition of the team’s fate. Next up: Arsenal on Tuesday.