La Liga has returned and the race for the title will be as interesting as ever. All the teams at the top have made improvements to their squads with the hopes of reaching their individual objectives. Real Madrid have made the less interesting signings, yet they’re ready to win the title they have failed to conquer since the 2011-12 season. The newly promoted Sporting will use their devoted crowd to keep some points at home.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
Since his arrival at the beginning of summer, Rafa Benítez has changed the philosophy of the team and implemented a new system. Meant to give Gareth Bale a new role, this new addition has had its pros and cons, yet it hasn’t been tested in an official competition. Sporting isn’t the ideal rival to make any conclusions, but the facts that points are in play can put some pressure on Real.
Goalkeeper and Defense
Iker Casillas’ seat will be taken by Keylor Navas, at least for now. The Costa Rican has featured more with the new coach than Casilla. However, Kiko shouldn’t be ruled out of the race. The defense is a bit more predictable, with the exception of the right back, which is one of the hottest rivalries this season. Rafa keeps his cards close, so it will be hard to anticipate who’ll be the #2 each game.
For the sake of continuity from last season, Carvajal seems like the choice because of the complicated environment of El Molinón. The opposite side only has Marcelo as an option, as Coentrão’s not fully recovered yet. The first pair of center backs will be formed by Varane and Ramos, despite Pepe’s recently renewed contract. This makes the defense exactly like the Ancelotti-era back four.
Covering more grass than previous seasons, the essence of the midfield will still consist of two main men, Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos. Holding the ground from a deeper position, they still are the two main playmakers and the best helpers of the defenders. The German will be the most sacrificed out of the two, as he sticks to his position more often than the Croatian, a more liberal and attacking man.
Moving forward we have the most decisive collection of footballers with James, Bale and Ronaldo all expected to feature against Sporting. The Colombian has shown great potential from that wing, combining well with his teammates. Bale will stay in the center, hoping to take advantage of his speed and powerful shot. Lastly, we have Ronaldo from the place we’ve come to known him best.
The main doubt is whether Isco or Jesé will act as the false #9, since neither of them are naturally used to that role. Both of them showed their best during preseason and won’t be alone in being responsible for scoring goals.
All of the midfielders double as attackers and will work to get close to the rival’s box. Although placed in a different way, the functionality of the men upfront stays the same.