Real Madrid’s star left-back Marcelo scored a brace and set up the third goal as a second string Los Blancos side defeated Chelsea 3 – 2 in their pre-season friendly in Michigan.
It was a game of two halves between Chelsea and Real Madrid on Saturday; the Champions League winners dominated the first half, but it was the Blues who scored two in the second without reply.
TheHardTackle discusses five talking points from the game, including a new role for goalscorer Eden Hazard under Antonio Conte.
The Mercurial Marcelo
Marcelo’s influence was immense during the game as a second string Real Madrid side proceeded to humiliate Chelsea in the first half. Despite operating at left-back, the Brazilian international seemed to be the creator-in-chief as Los Blancos took apart the Chelsea defence with their swift passing moves.
The 28-year-old scored a brilliant first-half brace — his first a deflected strike from outside the box with his weaker right foot, his second a brilliant individual run and finish after robbing young Chelsea right-back Ola Aina of possession in the Blues’ defensive third. To add to his attacking contribution, the Brazilian then set up Mariano Diaz for his thunderbolt to put the La Liga giants three goals up going into the break.
Chelsea defence undone by Real’s swift passing
Antonio Conte fielded an almost full-strength starting XI for Chelsea in the friendly match against Real Madrid. The likes of Gary Cahill and John Terry are regular centre-backs for the Blues, and were expected to thwart the Real attackers. However, the likes of Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio and Mariano played swift attacking football that caused the Chelsea defence several problems.
Los Blancos looked even more menacing when their left-back Marcelo joined in on the attack. Aina and Cahill in particular struggled to contain Real Madrid down Chelsea’s right flank, and it was little surprise that all three first-half goals had their origin in that region of the pitch.
Matic to lose his spot in the starting XI?
One player who looked especially poor on Saturday was Nemanja Matic. The Serbian midfielder, who has recently been linked with a move to Serie A champions Juventus, looked out of sorts against a second string Real Madrid side as he failed to provide any sort of cover for the Chelsea back four.
With France international N’Golo Kante arriving on Friday for pre-season training with his new club, it shouldn’t take long for the former Leicester City man to replace Matic as a first team regular if the Serbian’s poor form continues. Chelsea have a number of options in the heart of their midfield, but it will be interesting to see whether Conte manages to nurse Matic back to form.
Chelsea need a target man
Conte has been playing the unorthodox 4-2-4 system during Chelsea’s pre-season thus far. This formation requires the Italian to field two strikers up front. However, the former Juventus boss has shown an affinity to playing Chelsea youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek as a target man alongside Bertrand Traore. This combination has not quite worked out, with Chelsea constantly being pegged back due to the two young forwards being unable to retain possession.
It was after the introduction of new signing Michy Batshuayi that Chelsea began to threaten the Real Madrid defence. Batshuayi provided the Blues with a target to aim at up front and did well to hold the ball up for his teammates. Conte does have the mercurial Diego Costa at his disposal to act in this role once the season gets underway, but the Spain international has been heavily linked with a return to the Spanish capital.
Hazard’s new role
The Belgian, who was brought on for the last 25 minutes of the game, seemed to have a different role under Conte. Hazard, who normally operates from the left wing, was deployed as the second striker by the Italian. The 25-year-old was playing off the shoulder of Batshuayi and did well to score two goals in the second half to orchestrate a late Chelsea comeback.
Hazard is known to have blistering pace and he used that to make darting runs behind the Real Madrid defence. If Conte does stick with his ploy of playing Hazard as a second striker during the season, the Belgian will have the advantage of running on to accurate through balls from skillful playmakers like Cesc Fabregas and Willian.