Real Madrid will continue their pre-season preparations as they face AC Milan to commemorate the 60th anniversary of their European Cup final on Saturday.
The summer in European football is all about the transfer market and the eye-catching friendlies. And on Saturday, it will witness one of its more iconic friendlies of this year, as Real Madrid take on AC Milan at the Santiago Bernabeu.
This iconic friendly will commemorate the 60th anniversary of their iconic European Cup final in 1958 when Real Madrid won the tournament for the third time.
Thus, the current generation of the AC Milan players will be keen to withhold the prestige of their very club by putting in a good performance against the European Champions to seize the Santiago Bernabeu trophy.
The hosts Real Madrid have enjoyed a good pre-season campaign so far under new boss Julen Lopetegui with their recent win coming against AS Roma on Tuesday. Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale were on target as the Spanish giants emerged as 2-1 victors.
AC Milan, on the other hand, are coming on the back of a morale-boosting win over FC Barcelona. Andre Silva’s last-minute winner proved to the difference as the Italians controlled the mighty Catalans throughout the course of the match. It goes without saying that the Rossoneri will be keen to inflict similar damage into the hearts of Barcelona’s arch-rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.
And here at the Hard Tackle, we run the rule over the two sides before the highly-anticipated clash this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Luka Modric, who starred as Croatia reached the final of the 2018 World Cup, has started his pre-season training with Real Madrid. In fact, he did individual work in the gym, joining the likes of Marcelo and Casemiro. His return will be a huge boost for the Madrid fans, who will be keen seeing him in action in this new season.
However, it’s rather unlikely that he will be given the nod on Saturday. As a result, Dani Ceballos will retain his side in the starting lineup in central midfield alongside German international Toni Kroos and Spanish midfield maestro Isco. But, we can expect Marcos Llorente to make an appearance in the second half in order to provide more solidity in midfield.
In defence, expect Dani Carvajal to retain his spot in the right-back along with Sergio Ramos and Nacho, both of whom will be starting in central defence. However, Lopetegui might face a little dilemma in the left-back position with Marcelo unlikely to feature while Theo Hernandez has joined Real Sociedad on a season-long loan deal.
Thus, the former Spanish national team coach will opt to play Sergio Reguilon Rodriguez. The 21-year-old starred in Real Madrid’s International Champions Cup campaign and was eventually promoted to the first team, making him one of the players to look forward to this weekend.
In attack, Karim Benzema is expected to spearhead Los Blancos attack. The Frenchman will be provided support by Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio in wider positions. Asensio’s early goal proved to be the difference in the win against Roma and the Spanish international will be keen on replicating his performance against Milan.
As for the goalkeeping spot, it’s highly unlikely that Thibaut Courtois will start just days after making a deadline day move to the Bernabeu. In his stead, Keylor Navas will retain his place in between the sticks for Los Merengues.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Reguilon; Ceballos, Kroos, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Asensio.
Much like Lopetegui, AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso will opt for a 4-3-3 formation with new signing Pepe Reina playing in goal. The former Napoli keeper was in the bench, in the game against Barcelona but is expected to feature in this highly anticipated encounter.
Gattuso will hope to deploy new signing Mattia Caldara in the centre back position alongside Alessio Romagnoli.
Following the departure of Bonucci, Romagnoli will take on the responsibility of leading the Milan backline next season and a game against the mighty Real Madrid will be a great early test for the Italian international.
Another new signing fans could expect to start is Croatian international Ivan Strinic. He will start as the left-back while Davide Calabria will be deployed on the opposite flank. The 21-year-old is currently deputizing the injured number one right-back, Andrea Conti.
The trio of Franck Kessie, Manuel Locatelli and Hakan Calhanoglu are expected to retain their place in central midfield. All of these players played a key role in the win against Barcelona and will be looking to replicate that performance this weekend.
Patrick Cutrone will spearhead the Milan attack but fans will be keen to see the new signing Gonzalo Higuain, who is expected to make an appearance later on in the game. Cutrone will be partnered by Suso and Fabio Borini in wider positions.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Reina; Calabria, Romagnoli, Caldara, Strinic; Kessie, Locatelli, Calhanoglu; Suso, Cutrone, Borini.
Player to Watch
Although we have already iterated the hype surrounding Sergio Reguilon Rodriguez in this game, the main limelight will definitely shift to the mercurial Isco.
The Spanish international, despite a rather disappointing World Cup campaign, was easily one of Spain’s best players in the coveted tournament. As a result, Lopetegui is understood to be planning his tenure at Real Madrid around Isco, who has arguably become Madrid’s most important player following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.
His clever and neat movements coupled with his creativity can easily uproot the Milan defence while he also carries the danger of pulling out a stunner from long-range, making him a huge threat for the Rossoneri defence this weekend.
Real Madrid 2-0 AC Milan
As mentioned earlier, Milan will be full of confidence coming on the back of a win over FC Barcelona. But, it’s also worth noting that Real Madrid have been almost faultless in their pre-season matches and are keen to continue their dominance in European football.
Despite the departure of Ronaldo, it’s needless to say that the Spanish giants still have the necessary tools to dismantle any team in the world. For that reason, we expect them to seal a comfortable win against Milan.
Though in football, we never know.