Real Madrid aim for big-six season
If pre-season results were anything to look on then Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti would be feeling hot under the collar and looking anxiously over his shoulder following four defeats, one win and a draw.
Fortunately for Ancelotti the four defeats came in friendlies, the draw in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup and the win in the European Super Cup final, meaning his side has bagged another piece of silverware to add to last season's Champions League and Kings Cup while keeping their options alive of adding another, reports Xinhua.
This is a big season for the club who have the chance to add the Club World Cup to their trophy cabinet in December while attempting to once again reign in Europe, retain the Cup and win the La Liga.
If all that seems like a huge demand, the fact is that no other club in Spain or in fact the world has spent as much on players over the past five years as Real Madrid and with this summer's arrivals, winning six titles is a big ask but not impossible.
Once again Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has allowed himself to be swayed by the headlines and World Cup performances, spending 80 million euros on James Rodriguez, the Colombian who ended as the top scorer in Brazil and a further 10 million on Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas, one of the stars of the World Cup.
It's not sure whether Navas will be first choice ahead of Iker Casillas or where Rodriguez should play or even if he should play ahead of Angel di Maria, whose days at the club could be numbered if the right offer comes in. Di Maria was arguably Madrid's best player last season with a series of game changing displays and his pace and energy would be missed if he left.
However, one man who should make an immediate difference is German Toni Kroos. Kroos has to be seen as the long term replacement for Xabi Alonso and has shown in his appearances that he possesses the range of passing and the tactical awareness to fill the shoes of the Spain international.
That is good news as Alonso is slowing down, Asier Illaramendi showed last season that he still has a lot to learn and with Sami Khedira in the last year of his contract, the club is keen to move him on, all of which means Ancelotti is lacking defensive midfield cover.
Of course many would argue that is not important. After all, he has an attack which consists of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who all guarantee goals and in the case of Ronaldo and Bale, lightening pace on the break.
Add Isco, Rodriguez and, for the moment at least, di Maria to that equation and it's clear that Real Madrid should win majority of their league matches against sides constructed on the basis of loans and free transfers at a canter.
However, the departure of youngster Alvaro Morata does mean that if there is another signing to be made this summer it will be another No.9 to provide competition for Benzema.
That should leave the team fresher than many would expect for games against direct rivals -- Atletico Madrid and Barcelona and for their trips to Europe, although Ronaldo's fitness is a cause of concern after a string of worrying muscle and knee problems. Perhaps it is time for the Portuguese international to realise that he is mortal and needs to rest now and then.
Real Madrid remain unchanged in defence where Sergio Ramos and Pepe form an aggressive pairing with Rafael Varene to cover for the inevitable suspensions. Javier Carvajal is improving with every game at right back and Fabio Coentrao and Marcelo offer options on the left.
But this is Real Madrid and the fans at the Bernabeu don't pay to complement their defenders on a job well done. They pay to watch their strikers take rival teams apart and once again this season they should do that with ease.
(Posted on 21-08-2014)