New Real Madrid boss Rafa Benitez has three more preseason matches left to tinker with his lineup before the start of La Liga, but the Spaniard hasn’t taken a forceful approach to his new job. Instead, the former Napoli coach has heard out his new batch of players and tried to see where they fit best while building trust.
And as Los Blancos prepare to face the Premier League’s Tottenham in the Audi Cup opener Tuesday in Munich, Benitez gave the team’s official site some insight into his coaching style.
“The first thing I've done is listen, find out what went well and not so well last year, their impressions, what in their opinion could be improved and what they'd like to be done,” Benitez said. “I've done the same with all the technical staff and professionals at the club and, with all that information, once all together we'll decide what's best for the team and for every one of them. “
It’s a well-crafted strategy from Benitez, as Madrid didn’t seem to have too many issues last season, only who would command the ball on the attack. And during the preseason, Benitez has already greatly influenced the backline, with Los Blancos allowing only one goal in regulation over four matches.
But Madrid’s defense will be tested by a potent Tottenham attack, especially with Lucas Silva and Fabio Coentrao not traveling to Germany for the tournament. Both are expected to be transferred before the summer window closes.
Furthermore, Benitez will continue to manipulate his lineups with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema both out with injuries. Ronaldo experienced soreness in his back during training, but it’s not viewed a serious knock that will delay the Portuguese’s La Liga return. Benzema on the other hand underwent tests and his thigh injury could spill into the new term that is unless the Frenchman makes the much speculated transfer to Arsenal.
It is unfortunate both will be out, but Benitez already knows what Ronaldo and Benzema can do, and their absences will prompt available attackers Borja Mayoral, Lucas Vasquez, and Jese to gain some first-team time and perhaps prove they deserve it on a regular basis.
Meanwhile Spurs and manager Mauricio Pochettino heaped mountains of praise on his superstar striker Harry Kane, saying the 22-year-old English is on the verge of becoming one of the best in Europe. Pochettino also squashed any talk of a potential move to Manchester United.
"Any doubts about his commitment are gone," Pochettino told reporters. "He is delighted to stay. He is a big supporter of the club. He is very happy and we are very happy he is with us. He's excited to start the season with us.
"We have very ambitious players. We need to keep this mentality, try to build a tough and very strong group for the next few years to try and achieve important things."
Kane is of course coming off an incredible year with 30 goals and five assists, and he’s expected to once again shine, but Tottenham’s success in both Premier League and on the international stage will greatly depend on whether it can keep its defensive core together.
For starters, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, whose recovering from a broken wrist suffered last month, has reportedly caught United’s eye as a potential replacement should David de Gea shuttle off to Madrid, according to ESPNFC. Lloris totaled 107 saves over 34 matches last season, the sixth best among all keepers in Premier League, but thus far Pochettino’s tested veteran Michel Vrom and 19-year-old Luke McGee in net.
Spurs must also decide if they are willing to sell left-back Danny Rose to Chelsea. Daily Mirror reports the Blues are “desperate” to fill out their backline before the start of Premier League on Saturday and are willing to pay as much as 15 million for the 25-year-old Rose.
Start Time: 12:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
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