Expectations always remain insanely high for Real Madrid. After finally completing the La Decima mission in May, Los Blancos enjoyed another transfer window where they acquired new Galacticos. The team’s main goal this season will be trying to be the first back-to-back champion in the Champions League era and with their depth they can accomplish it.
Heading into the new season, Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury issues remained on everyone’s mind. The two-time Ballon d’Or winner suffers from a degenerative knee condition called tendonosis and a recurring thigh problem. The conundrum began in April when Real Madrid were facing Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and persisted all summer during the World Cup. Rest seems to be the best way to deal with the leg dilemma but Cristiano has a desire to play in every match. Manager Carlo Ancelotti does not want any of his players on the pitch for over 4,000 minutes this season, Ronaldo played 4,210 last year. The team competes for six trophies this campaign and have already won one as they beat Sevilla 2-0 in the UEFA Super Cup. Cristiano was the star of the show as he scored both goals and looks to be back to his dominant form already.
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The breakout star of the World Cup James Rodriguez signed for the 10-time European Cup/Champions League winners on July 22 and was a luxury purchase. Los Blancos did not need the 23-year-old but his quality was undeniable in Brazil as he won the FIFA World Cup Golden Boot, was a member of the tournament’s all-star team and scored the goal of the tournament. Domestically for Monaco, the Colombia international led Ligue 1 in assists and won his team’s player of the year. Rodriguez’s versatility will be beneficial to Ancelotti as the 2012 Portuguese Golden Ball recipient can play as a winger, second striker, deeper in the midfield or as a number 10 in the hole.
Toni Kroos joining the 32-time La Liga winners made sense as he was deemed as a surplus at Bayern Munich plus Xabi Alonso isn’t getting any younger and fellow German international Sami Khedira is entering the last year of his contract. The 24-year-old tied for the lead in assists in the World Cup with four and was the main creative spark for Germany as they became world champions. At Bayern, Kroos would start as a deep-lying playmaker but due to Philipp Lahm becoming a midfielder under Pep Guardiola and David Alaba supposedly playing more as a midfielder this year, Kroos was allowed to leave and this decision will be regretted eventually due to 2013 Champions League winner entering his prime.
Keylor Navas’ presence will be appreciated as goalkeeper was an issue for the team due to club and country icon Iker Casillas’ world-class form being gone forever. Diego Lopez left for AC Milan after the Costa Rica international was brought in even though Lopez was the team’s number one option at goalie last season. The 27-year-old uses his agility and decision making to lead the back line and already has La Liga experience as he’s been at Levante for the past three seasons.
So far, only Lopez and forward Alvaro Morata, signed to Juventus, has left the Spanish capital but Angel Di Maria, Isco and Sami Khedira have been linked to other teams due to the new signings and financial fair play. The club’s strength remains their versatility in attacking and pace for counterattacks but they have no depth at striker behind Karim Benzema due to Morata leaving and Jese tearing his right ACL in March. They’ve been linked to signing Radamel Falcao but will need huge funds to acquire the two-time Europa League winner and will most likely need to sell Di Maria before they can move forward in signing Falcao. Another weakness in the team is central defense due to the lack of temperament and composure from Pepe and Sergio Ramos. Youngster Raphael Varane can help by staying healthy to take one spot, most likely Pepe’s, but Ramos most also remember he is a defensive player first and not just a set piece weapon.
Real Madrid has reloaded and has the talent to repeat as Champions League winners. Atletico Madrid has to rebuild after losing key players and Barcelona are implementing a new manager again, which mean Los Blancos should win La Liga. Sports, just like life, is unpredictable but if Real Madrid’s new minutes system can keep players fresh while avoiding niggling injuries, then they’ll remain favorites to win every tournament they’ll be a part of.