Real Madrid have only played one game this season but have already sealed their first trophy. With the UEFA Super Cup in the bag, the eyes now turn to one of the biggest objectives- to defend the La Liga title.
Barcelona splashed the cash in the summer transfer window to assemble a squad that can compete on all fronts. Their signings make them a daunting opposition, but Real Madrid have something that cannot be purchased- a winning mentality.
Even from the lowest of lows, Los Blancos found ways to manoeuvre themselves to success last season. It was their champion mentality that won them the Champions League against all odds.
Heading into the new season, Carlo Ancelotti has two new faces on the team. Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger have adjusted well to their new home so far and add a new dimension to Real Madrid’s squad depth.
The Champions begin their title defence against UD Almeria at the Estadio del Mediterraneo on Sunday. Keeping in mind the vital balance between veterans and youth for the new season, this is how we predict Los Blancos will line up for their La Liga curtain raiser.
Fresh off his nominations for the UEFA Best men’s player and the Ballon d’Or, Thibaut Courtois will unquestionably start on the night. The Belgian’s stellar form was the foundation of Real Madrid’s success last season.
In central defence, we can expect a pairing of David Alaba and Eder Militao. While the arrival of Antonio Rudiger does complicate the selection in central defence, the Austrian-Brazilian combination once again proved their mettle with a solid show midweek.
Daniel Carvajal has been omitted from the squad list out of precaution. The defender is coming back from injury and Ancelotti prefers to wait rather than risk his star full-back.
In light of the veteran’s absence, Lucas Vasquez will likely start as the right-back on the night. The Spaniard has proven to be a reliable backup fullback last season and will look to improve the defensive aspect of his game.
The centre-backs should be flanked on their left by Ferland Mendy. The French international has come under severe criticism recently for his lacklustre displays in the final third.
Ancelotti will have to be more conservative with his veteran midfielders this season. Given their age, it would be in the club’s best interests to preserve the golden trio for big games.
Against Almeria, Luka Modric could start on the bench with Eduardo Camavinga taking his place in midfield. The youngster will be accompanied by Toni Kroos, who was phenomenal during pre-season.
The third place in midfield should be occupied by Casemiro. With his place in the starting XI under threat after Tchouameni’s arrival, one can expect a more determined presence from the Brazilian this season.
Moving to the forward line, two of the three starting names are engraved in stone. Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema were arguably the engine of Real Madrid’s success last season and will look to pick up where they left off in La Liga. The French international now holds the responsibility of captaincy and must lead by example.
The final spot in the starting lineup will probably be taken by Marco Asensio. The winger has had a turbulent transfer window with his future up in a cloud of doubt, but against Ancelotti will want to go all guns blazing against Almeria.
The new signings played only five minutes each in the UEFA Super cup and will hope to have more involvement in the opening matchday of La Liga.
Antonio Rudiger could replace Eder Militao in the second half, and Casemiro will, almost certainly, make way for Aurelien Tchouameni.
Federico Valverde was all over the field against Eintracht Frankfurt. His versatility is undoubtedly a gift to Ancelotti’s plans. The Uruguayan will almost surely come on as a substitute for Toni Kroos in the second period.
It is impossible to keep a player of Luka Modric‘s quality on the bench for long. The Croatian could feature if the team trail in the game and require his experience.
Ancelotti confirmed that Eden Hazard would play a bigger role in the team this season, and we can see him come on to replace one of the forwards in the second half.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Osasuna
After a two-week hiatus from club football, Real Madrid return to action on Sunday night in a home game against Osasuna. The league leaders have been unstoppable so far this season, and the objective at the Bernabeu will be to keep their fine form going.
Jagoba Arrasate’s side have enjoyed a positive start to the season with four wins in six games so far. The Pamplona-based side sit sixth in the league standings ahead of the likes of Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti will make several changes in his starting lineup on the night – some forced and some out of choice. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Los Blancos’ weekend clash.
1. Time to kick in the nitros
Real Madrid have been flawless this season and are the only club in the European top-flight to have not dropped a single point. While their start to the season has been nothing short of a fairytale, one wonders how long they can keep the magical streak going.
The month of October brings with it one of the most hectic schedules the club has seen in recent years. Over the next 30 days, Los Blancos play nine games across all competitions. In short, the equation boils down to a game every three days.
To come out on top in all nine games will require a superhuman effort from the Real Madrid players, but one knows well that the squad is capable of it. The team are in a strong headspace, and injecting the right amount of fuel at this point could propel their throttle and see them weather the storm.
A job well begun is half done, and Carlo Ancelotti will hope that his men can make a strong start to the month on Sunday night.
2. Coping without Modric
The FIFA International break has been cruel to clubs across the globe, with several key players returning injured and facing several weeks on the sidelines. The story for Real Madrid is no different.
Luka Modric played every minute of Croatia’s two friendlies in the last two weeks and even scored a goal in their 3-1 win over Austria. However, he suffered an injury to his hip and faces 8-10 days on the sidelines.
The veteran, at 37 years of age, has arguably been Real Madrid’s best player this season. In eight games, he has scored two goals and provided one assist for Los Blancos and continues to show the world why he is one of the best the game has seen.
Modric is expected to return for the Clasico in two weeks. However, one cannot help but wonder how Ancelotti compensates for such a big void.
It has been reported that the manager sees Dani Ceballos as the ideal man for the job. The 26-year-old impressed when given the start against Mallorca earlier this season, making four key passes and bagging one assist. Now, he could have his moment and a chance to prove his worth to the manager.
In Modric’s absence, Ceballos could start alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. With Eduardo Camavinga quickly climbing up the pecking order, the 26-year-old must make the most of his chance on Sunday to secure a place in the coming games.
3. The return of the gladiator
After a slow start to the season, Karim Benzema bounced back with a brace against Espanyol on Matchday three. Just when it seemed like he had found his stride, however, he suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out for close to three weeks.
While the team found alternate sources of goals in his absence, it was clear that Los Blancos lacked a dominant presence in the box in recent weeks. With Benzema’s recovery close to complete, all eyes will be on him to see if he can find his feet again.
In his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti confirmed that the French international would start on Sunday though it is unlikely that he will play all 90 minutes. Nevertheless, this comes as a big relief to Real Madrid, given that they have no natural replacement for the centre-forward.
The captain will look to make a statement on his return on Sunday and will likely be deployed alongside Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo.