La Liga is back with defending champions FC Barcelona, strong buyers Atlético Madrid and Sevilla, and Real Madrid’s almost identical squad. The latter will face Real Sociedad in the opening game in a stadium that can be complicated. The league title has been getting away from Los Blancos since the 2011-12 campaign and before that the last win was in the 2007-08 term.
Preferred Formation: 4-3-3
Zinedine Zidane’s first full season is ahead of him with major absences. Luka Modrić is carrying a suspension from back in May, while Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Pepe are injured. While we saw the 4-4-2 system in the preseason, the usual layout may return to populate the midfield and increase creativity.
GK: Kiko Casilla
Keylor Navas is still out for injury, but should return very shortly. This is a great chance for Kiko to prove that he’s able to play more than just the occasional La Liga game and the Copa del Rey.
RB: Dani Carvajal
Despite Danilo’s good preseason, the Spanish still is the main choice for the right back. However, he must give his best performance, because his competitor can steal his spot at any time.
CB: Raphaël Varane
With Pepe still out, he gets a headstart in one of the team’s strongest competitions. The Portuguese had a strong end of the season and a solid summer. Varane must work hard if he wants to remain ahead of him.
CB: Sergio Ramos
The captain helped win another final recently. If that’s a sign that he will start the year with the right frame of mind, the team will thank him. He usually takes a while to become a good consistent performer.
One of the stars of the preseason needs to continue that form into the official competitions. He has to be careful with injuries and suspensions, as Fábio Coentrão won’t be available for a couple more months.
Luka Modrić is suspended and won’t be available. Even though this is a huge setback, luckily midfielders are in abundance in the squad. Along with James, he’ll be fighting for a spot whenever the usual starters aren’t available.
He didn’t really stand out during the summer friendlies. His teammates hope that was just a temporary run, as the Casemiro that became important to Zidane is the one they need every weekend.
LCM: Toni Kroos
When Casemiro’s on the field, the German is a bit more liberated from defensive tasks. Hopefully, this means he’ll allow himself to lead the creative department like Modrić does.
RW: Gareth Bale
The Welshman once again needs to carry the weight of the attack. He’s proved in the past he’s able to lead without his usual partners. He’s scored in every visit to Anoeta since his arrival at the Bernabéu.
ST: Álvaro Morata
He had to wait until the last friendly to score his first goal. His form didn’t really impress in the last month. Since most of the BBC isn’t available, he’s a safe bet. Nevertheless, he must really start showing that man we saw at Juventus.
LW: Marco Asensio
The other star of the preseason went from a returning loanee to an official first team member. We saw him play this wing more than the midfield. James and Lucas Vázquez are also fighting for this spot.