Real Madrid open their La Liga campaign against newly-promoted side Cordoba tonight, but can the Los Blancos finish the upcoming season on top?
Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping to get off to a winning start for a campaign where his primary objective will be to win the only title that eluded him in his debut season as Madrid’s manager last season.
Real fell off the pace to title rivals Barcelona and Atletico towards the end of last season, when Ancelotti rested several players in favour of preserving their fitness for the Champions League final encounter with Atletico Madrid.
Ancelotti's side lost five games last season, but will be more concerned about the six draws that they picked up over the course of the season.
They struggled in particular in the big games, drawing only one game against Atletico, while losing the first leg against the La Liga champions as well as both La Liga El Clasico's against Barcelona.
The capital-based club has strengthened significantly over the summer with the signings of James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Keylor Navas for a total outlay of €120 million. Alvaro Morata, Diego Lopez and Casemiro have all departed the club and Angel Di Maria is on the verge of a big money move as well.
With the squad changes, Carlo Ancelotti has, so far, used two formations. His favoured 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 to accommodate a number 10 position for James Rodriguez. In goal, Iker Casillas will be sharing first team duties with Keylor Navas, probably in a similar manner to the way he did with Diego Lopez last season.
The back four will remain unchanged, but it seems that Fabio Coentrao will be preferred at left back alongside Ramos and Pepe in defence, while Raphael Varane should also get more game time. Dani Carvajal has massively improved under Ancelotti and looks nailed on at right back.
In midfield, Xabi Alonso is likely to get far less minutes this season and Toni Kroos will accompany Luka Modric in holding midfield roles, where they are likely to play behind James Rodriguez.
Up front, Madrid’s famed ‘BBC’, consisting of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo will be the preferred attacking trident.
With such a strong starting XI and perhaps the finest bench in Europe, consisting of Isco, Alonso, Sami Khedira and Varane, Madrid will be expected to build upon their success last season and La Liga will be their primary objective.
However, they need to improve on their results in the big games with Atletico and Barcelona - something which they failed to do in the Spanish Supercopa.
Do you think Real Madrid are strong enough to win the La Liga title this year? Have your say in the comment section below.