While daylight hours are occupied at the moment by Atlético’s attempts to lure Cristiano Ronaldo back to Madrid (and what a part is being played by the Metropolitano hierarchy, who insist on pretending there are no talks underway and by the continuing silence of the Great Leader, Diego Simeone), the small hours of the night are taken up by Real Madrid and Barcelona’s ongoing tours of the Americas. Barça, who appear to be more rounded and better reinforced than Madrid – although it is fair to say they were more in need of a squad spruce-up – are having a better time of it on the other side of the pond. Against Juventus Xavi’s side drew 2-2 in an entertaining game lit up by the brilliance of Ousmane Dembélé, who scored two sensational goals that went some way to justifying Barcelona’s decision to forgive him his caprices and hand over a new contract.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) July 27, 2022
Following Barça’s 2-2 came Madrid’s, although it was against slightly less stern opposition, Mexican side Club América, who are currently in the bottom half of the league table after a slow start to the season. Even so, América arrived in a competitive dynamic while Carlo Ancelotti’s European champions are still warming up. The Italian fielded his first-choice midfield and attack while stacking the defence with second-string players, beginning with Andriy Lunin in goal. The highlight of the game was Karim Benzema’s wonderful strike, which suggests the Frenchman remains in the rich vein of form he displayed last season. It was also notable that Spanish state broadcaster TVE managed to start showing the game when the score was already 1-0, putting on a full concert of confusion and lack of resources while the issue was rectified.
Ancelotti gives Madrid’s back-ups a run-out
The second half was interesting due to the appearance of Ancelotti’s back-ups. Eden Hazard played as a number nine, not as a false nine as he did against Barça, and once again looked like a shipwrecked vessel, although he did provide some glimmers of hope, born from his game intelligence. And he scored a penalty, taken by the book: low, hard and hit like a three-iron. I enjoyed watching Dani Ceballos, who is knocking on the door of the starting XI, and Aurélien Tchouaméni showed he has a powerful shot on him. It was a shame victory was denied by a mistake from Vínicius Tobías, who swung out a leg needlessly to concede a penalty. On Sunday, the two sides will play again in Los Angeles, Barça taking on NY Red Bulls and Real Madrid meeting Juventus.