Friday, January 21

Inter – Real Madrid: Ancelotti still doesn’t have a shield | sports

Alaba and Lautaro fight for a ball before the eyes of Casemiro and Modric.
Alaba and Lautaro fight for a ball before the eyes of Casemiro and Modric.emilio andreoli

Midway through the first half at San Siro, with a suffering and unfocused Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti broke his usual stillness to repeatedly demand that Vinicius put pressure on Skriniar in an attempt to start to shake off Inter’s dominance. On the field and in all his appearances, the Italian’s greatest concern at the start of the season is defensive work. It does not matter if the Brazilian suddenly unleashes himself as a scorer, that Benzema does not slacken or that Camavinga barely needs a few minutes to leave a trace in front of the rival goal. The demand is clear despite the four victories and a draw: the off-the-ball work of the entire group must improve.

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And in Milan, in a demanding and big-ticket European premiere, the white coach took action. The numerous previous public warnings seemed insufficient this time and the coach acted on the lineup in search of a more general defensive level and without attending to other political considerations: Lucas Vázquez entered in place of Hazard, who left Italy without playing a minute after heating up almost the entire second half; and Nacho occupied the left side with Alaba as central, to the detriment of the youth squad Miguel Gutiérrez, who did not want to expose in a first place. Two measures clearly pushed by precaution. In the case of the Galician for the Belgian, Ancelotti explained his intention: he wanted more energy in both parts of the field.

However, the movement of pieces did not save Madrid from anguish for an hour of play. He received 14 shots in the first half, the second highest number suffered until halftime in the Champions League since 2005/06, after the 15 in 2013 against Juventus. Only Courtois’ response relieved the whites, but Ancelotti’s intervention served to reflect his concern with this aspect and the warning that he is willing to move elements. In San Siro he gave flight to Lucas Vázquez to the detriment of Hazard (second substitute of the course) and preferred the more experienced defenders.

From the first day, the coach has been asking for more “sacrifice” without the ball

The general data in this still short period of competition reflect changes with respect to the dynamics of last year. The white team improves notably in goals for (14-6) and worsens in conceded (6-3) as a consequence, in part, of the greater number of shots received per game (15.8-14.5; on goal: 5.6-4.9). The portrait is easy to draw: more damaging at the top, more vaporous at the back and, although he has not yet lost, with the pending task of completing a consistent performance from start to finish, without so many comings and goings.

Until now, while this statistic was cooking in the month of official meetings, Ancelotti has been leaving statements almost daily of his concern. From the first day. After beating Alavés (1-4) after a weak first half, he assured that his team had not had “the courage to press up” when it had “fast defenses”; and to value Nacho, he described him as “pessimistic” for always thinking that something bad could happen. The night of Vinicius’s explosion against Levante (double at 3-3), he carefully analyzed the performance of the winger and focused on insisting on the errors behind.

Nacho and Militão

Before visiting Betis (0-1), he warned that “defensive work is sacrifice and concentration, not quality”, and that “football today does not allow you to defend with seven or eight.” And after winning at Villamarín without conceding, he remembered the goal again: “It may happen that we are not so fine with the ball, but without the ball we can do more.” Paradoxically, after escaping alive from San Siro and admitting that Courtois had saved them before Rodrygo’s terminal target, he said that defensively they had not been bad. Of course, when asked about Camavinga, the author of a goal and an assist in just 34 minutes that he adds with Real Madrid, he finished off the answer by putting a duty: “The defensive aspect has to improve and he will.”

Praise, pointed key man in the center to raise the pressure line

In this puzzle, due to his manifestations and decisions, one piece seems decisive: David Alaba. The Austrian landed at the Bernabéu with the multipurpose poster hanging from his chest, with experience in the positions of central, left back and midfielder, but the Italian has already publicly indicated that the priority is to place him in the axis of the rear. He wants him there for his ability to carry the high pressure line, as he explained after defeating Betis, and raising Madrid’s positioning several meters.

This is one of the conclusions reached after the first defensive problems. In the two initial matches (Alavés and Levante), he placed him on the left side, with Nacho and Militão as central, however, in Milan the one displaced to the left-handed side was Nacho, giving priority to Alaba in the center. Miguel Gutiérrez, 20, erratic last Sunday in Celta’s 0-1 and Benzema’s assistant in 2-2, saw everything from the side. “We have high quality youngsters, but in this type of game I have to put experience. It’s normal, ”he said, taking this rule for granted. Except for surprise, that side will be for the fiber of Mendy, without playing since May due to injury, also ahead of the declining Marcelo.

In recent times, the loss of offensive threat multiplied the importance of defensive performance in Madrid. On several occasions, Zidane praised the collective work with the phrase: “We don’t risk anything.” This season, and stage, he has started more fertile in attack, although Ancelotti knows that if he wants to take any big game prey he will have to progress backwards.

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