Real Madrid’s lavishly assembled squad, including World Cup sensation James Rodriguez in attack, aim to be the first team to win all six trophies available this season with the European Super Cup already under their belt.
Now that the weight has been removed from their shoulders after winning ‘La Decima’, their tenth European Cup after a 12-year gap, they are looking forward confidently to more silverware.
Lifting all six trophies on offer which also includes the World Club Championship, the King’s Cup, the La Liga championship and the Champions League would equal bitter rivals Barcelona’s feat in 2009, but that was in a calendar year.
So far Real have won the European Super Cup against Sevilla and aim to win the domestic version on Friday against Atletico Madrid following a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Bernabeu.
Rather than major alterations to the squad, they have made astute reinforcements with the customary marquee signing under president Florentino Perez of Colombian forward Rodriguez for a reported 80 million euros ($107.9 million).
The Golden Boot winner at the World Cup is joined by midfielder Toni Kroos and keeper Keylor Navas who also shone for Germany and Costa Rica in Brazil.
The negative note for Carlo Ancelotti’s side ahead of the big La Liga kick-off this weekend has been their performances in friendly matches including the International Champions Cup held in the United States.
In total they have lost three and drawn one friendly. Most doubts are over defence and in particular keeper Iker Casillas.
Despite losing his place to Diego Lopez in the league last season and contributing to Spain’s early World Cup exit with some erratic performances, Casillas remains at the Bernabeu.
Instead it is Lopez who has moved on, signing for AC Milan, but Casillas will now find it hard to keep Navas at bay.
Kroos has fitted in well with his neat passing game in midfield and could now well take over the set-play duties from Xabi Alonso but there are more question marks over the role of Rodriguez ahead of the league kick off.
He has been quiet and struggled to impose himself in matches, having been tried out in different attacking roles.
He did, however, hit the target against Atletico in the Super Cup, having come off the bench.
“He is not lacking anything it is just that he has changed club and teammates. We are happy with what he is doing, we are not going to ask for more as he just needs time to adapt,” Ancelotti told a news conference.
There is a mood of optimism at the Bernabeu as they have only had to tweak their side during the close season while rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have undergone an overhaul with players coming and going.
“Kroos will give us more quality in the team and more experience on the pitch. We have a better side than last year but hard work is now important,” said Ancelotti.
“We will continue with the same style as last season. There may be times during matches where we will alter the formation but generally it will be the same.” (supersport.com)
Atletico prepared to retain title
Champions Atletico Madrid has been predictably short of key players for the new La Liga campaign but has reinvested well and can again upstage the top two in Spain.
Long before last season was over, clubs with more financial clout were eyeing pickings from the Calderon as Diego Simeone’s resilient side breathed new life into the championship which had become a two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Champions League finalists have lost talisman Diego Costa to Chelsea who have also signed keeper Thibaut Courtois and full-back Filipe Luis.
David Villa is another departure but the club has made some shrewd signings.
Keepers Miguel Angel Moya and Jan Oblak have been brought in to cover the significant gap left by Courtois and will be competing for a starting place.
The experienced Guilherme Siqueira is a reliable replacement for Filipe Luis and will similarly offer a threat going forward down the wing.
The rest of the first-choice backline should remain the same, with Diego Godin the leader at the back and his centre half partner Joao Miranda now set to stay despite plenty of speculation over a move to the English Premier League.
Central midfield is also unchanged following Tiago’s U-turn on a move to Chelsea.
Going forward they have replaced Costa with Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich while Raul Jimenez, who signed from Mexican side America, will also vie for a place.
LITTLE TIME TO ADAPT
Antoine Griezmann is an exciting talent taken from Real Sociedad and will provide options on the left wing or in attack.
“With the new signings and the fact we are likely to have four different players in the team, it means that there will be a big change,” Simeone told a news conference in Madrid.
“The players have different characteristics and there is little time to adapt so it is difficult to say how well we will do. We will be competing though with Sevilla, Valencia and (Athletic) Bilbao for the Champions League places.
“The fact is that we have spent 95 million euros ($126m) on our signings and they (Real and Barcelona) have spent that on just two. It is the same as ever and we will fight with what we have.
“Diego Costa has gone but the structure of the team will be the same. We will have the same stability, same style of play.
“The way that Mandzukic plays is not the same as Costa and Griezmann has some similarities while Jimenez is somewhere in between.
“This is the first time in the last few years that there have been so many changes. We have had a new player here or there like Costa or Villa but generally it has been the same.”
Atletico will be looking to avoid comparisons with the last time they won the league in 1995-96. Following that success, they were unable to live up to the high expectations and ended up relegated four years later. (supersport.com)[eap_ad_3]