Real Madrid has found a vaccine for the hard times ahead. In the economic aspect it makes cash, it reduces salaries and it doesn't sign any player. In terms of sport, it has worn the Italian 'catenaccio' suit. It doesn't go as far as the one from the 1950s with the sweeper between the centre-halves, but it has put the lock on its goal while upstairs they play Russian goal roulette.
Valdebebas helps. The Alfredo di Stéfano stadium without an audience absorbs all the pressure of the Bernabeu. Matches like the one that brought them face to face with Valladolid are much more suffered with the murmur of the crowd in the background. They are close to defeat. They portray that labyrinth of play through which the players are lost. Their reference is Ramos and a guiding light must always be ahead. Better without an audience. At least during a complicated season where we will see the most earthy Real Madrid of recent years.
Zidane continues to play pre-season games. At the end of the match against Valladolid, Vinicius said that not playing before the start of the league marks the beginning of the season. His line-ups are a statement of intent. There are some fixed ones and then a series of variables that serve to see the status of players such as Jovic, Asensio, Mayoral, Vinicius, Rodrigo, Odriozola, Odegaard or Valverde. Also, exposing them to Madridism so that they do not complain about always seeing the same faces. "This is Real Madrid", that's how the French coach answered a journalist when asked to explain why there was no young talent emerging from the first team.
Without Bale, Hazard is the new white ghost. We already know that he has suffered a very serious ankle injury and that recovery times were not correct. Roberto Martinez, coach of Belgium, revealed that he needed "about 40 training sessions" to be physically well. Now a muscular injury has been added to his ordeal.
The nine points that Real Madrid have in the league are a miracle in view of the football they have played. Playing not to lose. That's how they won LaLiga last season and that's how they plan to present their candidacy for the title this year. Everything is possible. Let's see what Barça de Koeman and Messi are capable of with their crooked noses. Analyze what Atletico de Madrid has come to this season with the signing of Suárez. Assess whether Sevilla can do more or less than Villarreal. And to wait for the hidden one that subtracts points to the big ones. If Real Madrid is capable of surviving all that, they will win La Liga again.
Europe cannot and should not be looked at. Valdebebas may be able to take some of the intensity out of his opponents by seeing himself on such an unusual stage, but the white game will not put them in a difficult position. Zidane has few league matches left to decide who his warriors will be in the Champions League. Courtois, Ramos, Casemiro and Benzema will be the safety net that Luis Aragonés would say. There are too many unknowns around them.
Before Valladolid it became clear that Jovic is not improving on Benzema and that Vinicius has to play by decree. For Real Madrid, the hot shot is that Brazilian who is as playful and daring as a failing player. The same man who in the afterlife, back in February 2020, scored with Mariano in the victory against Barça. Two players who should not be missing from Zidane's team for several games in a row.
Zidane has thrown the keys to the lock into the sea. Real Madrid is not going to play anything but what we saw at the end of last season and the beginning of the 2020-2021. Boring football, intense defence and whatever comes up with what he has. The Frenchman's script has nothing else. The "aligner" does not dirty the board of the dressing room, but he is able to convince everyone to win.