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.