x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Familiar problems surface at the back for top-heavy Real

Real Madrid's defence, so often the thorn in their side in past seasons, is giving new coach Manuel Pellegrini a headache once more.

Despite their attacking riches, it is Real Madrid's defence, so often the thorn in their side in past seasons, that is giving new coach Manuel Pellegrini a headache once more. The big-spending Spanish giants have added Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema to their already talented squad this summer But, as another defender left the Bernabeu - Argentine Gabriel Heinze who has moved to Marseille - Pellegrini admitted that his side's defending, from set-pieces in particular, is a concern after Juventus inflicted a first defeat of pre-season on Real.

Juventus beat Real 2-1 in the semi-finals of the Peace Cup on Friday night with both Juve goals - from former Bernabeu favourite Fabio Cannavaro and Hasan Salihamidzic - arriving from dead-ball situations. That means that all five goals Madrid have conceded in their four pre-season games to date have come from set-pieces - all from headers - and Pellegrini knows it is something they need to improve on considerably before the start of La Liga later this month.

"The defending at dead-ball plays is concerning, but we know that we have worked only a little on that. It's not normal, but it's not something that right now we are working on very strongly," said Pellegrini. "The team continue progressing game by game. We had clear chances, and the worst things are the dead-ball plays. We can't concede so many goals like that, we will have to work on that." Heinze insists he was not forced out of Real. He has been unveiled as Marseille's 10th signing of the summer as coach Didier Deschamps continues his squad rebuilding ahead of the new season.

Heinze, 31, was not a regular at Real over the past two seasons and he did not appear to be in Pellegrini's plans. But he told Marseille's website: "It isn't a question of the plans of the Madrid coach. It is my own decision. I have experienced some amazing seasons at Real, but the life of a footballer is like this. "It leads you to change clubs and I am happy to be here and I am going to give my all."

* PA Sport