| Real Madrid’s Isco celebrates his goal with teammate Morata, at Bernabeu, on Sunday |
Madrid: Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has questioned his Spanish international team-mate Iker Casillas’ exclusion from Real Madrid’s match against Real Betis.
New manager Carlo Ancelotti dropped club captain Casillas to the bench and played Diego Lopez in Madrid’s 2-1 win in the La Liga game on Sunday, in a repeat of the final months of Jose Mourinho’s reign at Real Madrid.
However, Valdes, who was away on international duty with Casillas for the Confederations Cup in June and last week’s friendly against Ecuador, believes Casillas is still the best goalkeeper in the country.
“I was surprised that he didn’t start. In training with Spain, he looked good to me and in the Confederations also,” he said.
“I don’t tire of saying that he has made saves that I didn’t think were possible. For me he is the best.
“I am not the one to have an opinion because it is not my club and I am not in that dressing room.
“I would like to see him there though because it has always been a personal challenge for me to face him for a number of years.”
Real had to come from behind against Betis for a 2-1 win at the Bernabeu, in their season opener, new 30 million euro signing Isco heading an 86th-minute winner.
Jorge Molina had put the lively visitors ahead in the 14th minute only for Karim Benzema level in the 26th.
While Real pursue Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale for a reported world record 100 million euros, it was a player who cost Betis one euro and 20 cents, Cedrick Mabwati, who set up the opener at the Bernabeu.
The Congolese winger surged forward and crossed low for Molina to divert the ball past Lopez.
Betis were audacious in their approach and Joan Verdu should have doubled the lead when he fired wide as the hosts looked disjointed.
Real had already had two goals ruled out for offside when new signing Isco fed Benzema, and the France striker scored at the near post.
Betis’s Nosa slammed a header against the crossbar from a corner and Cedrick had a good shot for a penalty waved away, but Real responded in the second half, Cristiano Ronaldo rattling the crossbar straight after the re-start.
The Portugal forward, Angel Di Maria, Benzema and Marcelo all had further chances as the pressure grew, and with time running out Marcelo crossed and Isco headed just under the crossbar.
“We can do better,” Ancelotti told a news conference.
“We played some good combinations, but the problem was our defensive play. It was a problem of balance. The first game is never easy.
In contrast to Real, Barcelona started the campaign on fire with 7-0 against Levante that included six first-half goals.
The Catalans were also under new management as Gerardo Martino took charge for the first time in a competitive match and Valdes is very much in favour of his decisions to press high up the field and introduce man-marking when defending corners.
“I think it was at the very least one of the best starts to the season I have seen. The team was very intense and defended much higher up the field which allowed us to recover the ball quicker and counter-attack.
“The coach and his team said that they prefer to mark man-to-man and I am happy with this because I am of the same opinion. It gives a goalkeeper more space to come out and collect crosses,” Valdes said.