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Immediate Reaction: Roma *2 - 2 Real Madrid

Finally, and end to preseason.

AS Roma v Real Madrid - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Roma draw Real Madrid 2 - 2 (Perotti, Dzeko; Marcelo, Casemiro) after regulation, but win on penalties in the last preseason game of the summer (not counting Trofeo Bernabeu). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

In Real Madrid’s final pre-season match, Zinedine Zidane rolled out yet another 3-5-2 — raising question marks about his plans for the start of the season which gets underway later this month against Celta Vigo. At the Olimpico today, Zidane went with Nacho instead of Ramos in the back-three, and a packed midfield in front of the defense which saw Casemiro, Luka Modric, and Fede Valverde. The team was spearheaded by an isolated Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema.

A team with three center-backs, two wing-backs, a defensive midfielder, and two two-way central midfielders — especially with the personnel Real Madrid have — is essentially built to be defensively sound. But Real Madrid found a way to look vulnerable anyway. The team was regularly beat through routine dribbling sequences — especially when Eder Militao and Casemiro were being attacked — and Nacho was out of position for a handful of chances that Roma had in the first half. The team was vertically loose defensively, and apart from some successful pressing early in the match, the shape was disjointed, and Roma even took advantage of Real’s high line on the opening goal of the game:

Those were some of the defensive kinks to mention. Offensively, it was tough to watch the center-backs sling ineffective long balls; Casemiro’s giveaways in Real Madrid’s half; Carvajal hitting passes down the flank to no one in particular; or Hazard not being involved at all — isolated from the midfield behind him. Real Madrid’s equalizer came through a moment of brilliance between Luka Modric and Marcelo:

After Casemiro put the team ahead 2 - 1 on an offside goal (which wasn’t disallowed as there’s no VAR in these friendlies), Cengiz Ünder sliced Real Madrid with a great pass to find Edin Dzeko:

In the second half, Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 of sorts, bringing in Luka Jovic and Vinicius Jr for Nacho and Karim Benzema. It didn’t necessarily zip things up defensively, but Vinicius’s dribbling and off-ball runs did give some life to the attack, and that the majority of the second half was uneventful — that was probably a good thing.

Jovic was a mixed bag. He had two great chances, but shot right at the keeper at both. But that’s harsh — his pressing was good and he did really well to get into those goalscoring positions in the first place.

The game did open up a bit for Real Madrid when Gareth Bale and Isco came on — helping Real Madrid create more chances and carve out space in the final third. We’ll break this down in more detail in the coming hours, and we’ll discuss what any of this means for the the regular season on tonight’s post-game podcast.

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