Craig Burley questions Carlo Ancelotti’s team selection as Real Madrid limp past Almeria

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‘I was a little perplexed!’: Craig Burley questions Carlo Ancelotti’s team selection as Real Madrid need ‘moment of magic’ from David Alaba to beat newly-promoted Almeria

  • Real Madrid needed a second-half comeback to beat Almeria on Sunday
  • Craig Burley did not understand why they didn’t play their ‘strongest team’
  • Luka Modric, David Alaba and Eden Hazard were second half substitutes 

Craig Burley expressed his confusion at Carlo Ancelotti’s team selection for Real Madrid’s La Liga opener Sunday, as the reigning Spanish champions limped to a 2-1 win vs. newly-promoted Almeria.

Madrid struck twice in the second half – including a wonderful David Alaba free kick – to grab all three points, but started the game with senior figures like Alaba, Luka Modric and Casemiro on the bench in favor of a younger lineup.

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‘I was a little perplexed, first day of the season to be not playing your strongest team,’ Burley said. 

Craig Burley questioned Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to start without some senior players

David Alaba scored a stunning free kick with his first touch of the game to give Real the lead

David Alaba scored a stunning free kick with his first touch of the game to give Real the lead

‘But [Ancelotti] obviously wants guys to get game time sooner rather than later. ‘

Madrid started the game rather inexperienced in midfield, as 19-year-old Eduardo Camavinga and 22-year-old debutant Aurelien Tchouameni played alongside Toni Kroos.

Camavinga was hauled off at halftime for Luka Modric, while Tchouameni exited in the 58th minute for Eden Hazard.

‘There’s a risk and reward, and the risk wasn’t paid off at halftime, so changes were made and then further changes were made,’ Burley said.

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Madrid trailed until the 61st minute, and it was ultimately two of the team’s elder statesmen who won them the game.

Lucas Vasquez pounced on a loose ball inside the box to tie the game up, and Alaba – also a second half sub – scored with his first touch of the match in the 75th minute to give the team the lead. 

While Burley wasn’t overly impressed with the manner of the win, it did feel familiar to him. 

‘In some sense it just reminded me exactly of last year’s Madrid… little bit of a sluggish performance against a team [just] promoted, and a bit of brilliance to win the game,’ he said. 

Alaba's free-kick ensured LaLiga holder Madrid got off to a winning start for the season

Alaba’s free-kick ensured LaLiga holder Madrid got off to a winning start for the season

‘We said that so many times about Madrid last year, in games that were tight [Karim] Benzema or Vinicius Jr. stood and just did something out of this world.

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‘It takes a moment of magic, it takes Lucas Vazquez getting in there [and scoring] to win this game.’

Madrid will face a tougher test next weekend as they visit Celta Vigo. 

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