Managers have been replaced, but the questions around the goalkeeper selection at Real Madrid remain. Carlo Ancelotti chose to start with Diego Lopez in the first match of the season, leaving a very angry Iker Casillas on the bench.
Last season, Casillas played in only 19 matches, as his omission from the lineup had to do with power struggles in the dressing room and between Jose Mourinho and the Spanish press. It turned out, that bringing in Diego Lopez worked out quite well, as the 31-year old took over the role and actually made the most of it, playing a lot better than Casillas did during the early part of the season.
And a new manager, a new season. Something has changed? Yes. Ancelotti doesn’t have any personal beef with Casillas that we know of, but it still didn’t help the most accomplished goalkeeper in the history of Spanish football, someone who is as close to a national hero as a footballer can get. And he still decided to bench Casillas in favor of Lopez.
Diego Lopez hasn’t been in the national team since 2009. He isn’t likely to feature for it any time soon, even if he continues to keep Casillas out of the lineup. But the noise in Madrid isn’t dropping. After all of the problems that came up from this specific issue last season, it’s hard to believe the Madrid press is going to let Ancelotti bench someone as influential as Casillas without badgering him about it every single change they get.
Are Real Madrid a better team with Lopez between the goalposts? Hard to say. We haven’t seen Casillas playing a few matches in a row for Real Madrid for a very long time, but his influence is obviously something that Lopez doesn’t have. He might be the better shot stopper at this point of their careers, but the defensive game from Real Madrid has been somewhat of a mess for quite some time.
Real Betis would have won the match against Real Madrid if it wasn’t for Lopez’ saves on Sunday, as his defense, consisting of Sergio Ramos and Pepe in the middle, found it very difficult to handle the crosses and the constant pressure from the wings (maybe saying a thing or two about Carvajal and Marcelo as well). Iker Casillas might not have been able to make all those saves – not with his lacking actual playing form, but there’s a good chance that the defense is a lot more confident with him behind them.