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Real Madrid-Atlético Madrid: International Champions Cup Q&A with Matt Wiltse

Managing Madrid’s writer and podcaster helps us preview Friday’s International Champions Cup fixture.

Chivas de Guadalajara v Atletico de Madrid - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by Ronald Martinez/International Champions Cup via Getty Images

ItC: Marco Asensio’s knee injury is set to keep him out for most of next season, if not all of it. Where does Zidane go from here in light of this blow?

MW: Asensio’s injury is a huge blow to the club. He had given up playing for the Spanish U21 team in order to properly prepare for the upcoming season and in his brief appearance against Arsenal he had hit the post, helped create the first goal, and then scored the second goal. He looked to be coming back into that form which generated all the hype. Needless to say, it’s heartbreaking news and he likely will be out for the majority of the season.

So where does Zidane go from here? Well, Madrid are not lacking in the winger department. Currently on the books we have: Hazard, Bale, Vinicius, Brahim, Rodrygo, Kubo, Lucas Vazquez and James — even Isco can feature in that position. My bet would be on Vinicius forming part of an attacking trident with Benzema and Hazard. His best position is on the left, but Hazard will occupy that spot. He got a run out on the right wing against Arsenal and looked comfortable.

With Benzema and Hazard the front line can be very fluid, all three of them can play any of those three attacking positions and I imagine there will be a lot of interchange. So Vinicius may start on the right, but you will likely find him on the left for periods of the game or even centrally. He’s too good a player to be sat on the bench waiting for Hazard to need a rest.

Does the Asensio injury change Gareth Bale’s future at the club, and what do you make of his situation as a whole?

I do not believe this changes Gareth Bale’s future at the club. Zidane is very clear in his ideas and has a vision for his 2019/20 squad, one which does not entail Gareth.

That being said, Bale seems to have his own ideas. He seems (and this is an outsider observation) very content to stay at the club and collect paycheck, even if it means his once-protagonist role is reduced to the occasional game here or there. Due to his age, injury record, and wages there are no powerhouse European clubs interested. I think a Tottenham Hotspur or Bayern Munich would be willing to take a risk on him, but not unless he reduces his wages and Madrid is willing to accept a lowball offer.

What are your thoughts on the James to Atlético rumors? How disappointed would you be to lose him?

Like many Madrid fans, I rate James Rodriguez very highly. Without the injuries and the constant chop and change of coaches at Madrid, I think he had the potential to evolve into one of the 7-10 best attacking players in the world. The quality is still there — it was evident at Bayern and you saw it this summer in the Copa America. Though, at both Madrid and Bayern he struggled to keep hold of a starting position. There are murmurs of a potential attitude issue coupled with his frequent muscle injuries, which makes it hard to build around him.

All that being said, I think it would be a huge mistake to sell him to Atlético Madrid — a bigger mistake than selling Marcos Llorente. James is a game-changer and those players are worth their weight in gold.

Who is your favorite summer signing for RM so far this summer and why?

Our biggest, and best, signing was Eden Hazard. His quality alone can win you 9-12 additional points over a season. Though, I am intrigued to see how Jović’s season progresses. It’s been years since we had a predatory finisher like him (obviously excluding Ronaldo) and I really hope he can replicate his goal tally from last year.

Finally, got a scoreline prediction/any other thoughts on this preseason derbi?

I am going to go with a 2-1 victory for Real Madrid. I think we will see two strong lineups in the first half which will in all likelihood nullify each other over 45 minutes, but I think Madrid’s depth is a lot stronger than Atlético’s. Once the rotations start coming through in the second half, Zidane’s men will likely take the upper hand and see out the victory. /braces for backlash from the Colchoneros