Real Madrid 2018/19 Season Preview: Strengths, Weaknesses, Key Man and Predictions

In typical Real Madrid fashion, Los Blancos’ season could begin with a major trophy in their very first official match. Real will take on city rivals Atletico Madrid in their first competitive match of the season, before kicking off their La Liga campaign against Getafe.

Despite unrivalled success, manager and former player Zinedine Zidane decided to leave the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season, replaced in controversial fashion by former Spain boss Julian Lopetegui. 

With a squad of world-class but ageing talent, what can Real fans expect for the new season?

1. Last Season

Normally, when a team wins the Champions League, it is the culmination of years of planning and hard-work, the ultimate achievement in club football. For Real Madrid, it is just like any other season.

Real’s third consecutive Champions League win, their 13th overall, was arguably one of their hardest, having faced PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Liverpool on the road to glory. Undoubtedly, an amazing achievement for a record-breaking side.

However domestically, Real fans were left disappointed – Los Blancos never came near a title challenge, finishing 17 points short of champions Barcelona. Real spent most of the season bouncing between 3rd and 4th position, well below the expectations of their demanding fanbase.

Despite an outstanding season in European football, Real still have much to improve on domestically.

2. Transfers In

Real Madrid have been relatively quiet in the transfer window, with only one new ‘Galactico’ making his debut at the Bernabeu.

After what seemed to be the longest transfer saga of the summer, Real finally managed to get their hands on World Cup Golden Glove winner Thibault Courtois from Chelsea for £35m. The Belgian international will face some competition between the sticks this season, as he must battle Keylor Navas for a place in the starting squad.

Real’s most expensive signing this summer has been Brazilian wonderkid Vinicius Junior. Previously at Flamengo, Real clearly have high hopes for the 18-year-old forward, paying €40.5m for the lad. However, it’s unlikely that the fans will see Vinicius Jr tearing up La Liga just yet as he is more of a prospect for the future.

Other signings include Alvaro Odriozola, a right-back from Real Sociedad, and Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Lunin.

The Spanish transfer window does not shut until the end of August, so there is still time if Real want to bring in a marquee signing.

3. Transfers Out

It still feels difficult to imagine Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo. Since signing for Real back in 2009, the Portuguese forward has been the ultimate symbol of Real Madrid. Scoring 311 goals and winning four Champions League titles, even at 33-years-old Ronaldo’s departure leaves a huge hole, both on and off the pitch.

Other departures include defensive midfielder Omar Mascarell, Lucas Torro and Philipp Lienhart, but these departures will all go unnoticed when compared to the great CR7.

4. Strengths

Real are strong and balanced in many facets of the game. The strike force of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio has a mix of strength, skill and pace. The midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro is one of the best in the world. In defence, Real possess the most competitive man in football Sergio Ramos, as well as World Cup winning centre-back Raphael Varane, ably supported by Dani Carvajal and Marcelo in the full-back positions.

However, Real’s biggest strength comes through in their experience. The fact that they have won so many of the game’s biggest trophies means that it seems that they never feel any pressure, even the biggest games are just another day’s work for this Real Madrid side.

5. Weaknesses

Real’s biggest weakness lies in the aftermath of CR7’s departure from the club. Los Blancos have lost arguably the biggest winner in football, a source of inspiration and experience. Ronaldo’s rivalry with Lionel Messi in La Liga has seen them both take their level up to new heights, pulling their teams along with them. The fact that Ronaldo is no longer a member of Real’s roster and with no big name to replace him, they might have lost their winning edge – not to mention the 30-odd goals he scored each season.

Another key weakness for Real this year is their ageing side, which possess a lack of stamina for the long league campaign and are far more suited to the short bursts of the Champions League knockout format.

6. Key Man

It’s hard to evaluate Bale’s stint at Real Madrid. On the one hand, Bale has scored in two Champions League Finals and has more than pulled his weight for the team since his record-breaking transfer from Tottenham.

However, under Zidane, Bale was in and out of the first team and has had a difficult relationship with the Real fans, even having his car vandalised after a run of particularly poor performances.

With Ronaldo now gone, Bale finally has the opportunity to step up and fill his boots. Scoring 10-20 goals a season won’t be good enough any more, Bale has to be Real’s talisman if they are to match and improve on their previous season’s success. If the Welshman can raise his game to come close to the level of his former Portuguese teammate, then Real can continue dominating world football.

Potential Breakout: Uruguayan youngster Federico Valverde caught the attention of many as he starred for the national team in last year’s U-20 World Cup, winning the Silver Ball as Uruguay finished fourth. After his La Liga debut on loan to Deportivo La Coruna, the gifted midfielder could potentially see some playing time this year on the big stage. 

7. Predictions

With a new manager at the helm and Ronaldo gone, Real suddenly find themselves in an unexpected transition period. All the indicators suggest that it will be difficult for Real to match their previous success immediately.

Normally a club focusing on short-term success, Real may have to be patient and wait until Lopetegui becomes fully settled at the Bernabeu before seeing the results they expect.

With the likes of PSG, Juventus and Barcelona all getting stronger, the Semi-Finals may be the limit for Real in the Champions League. Lopetegui’s side will aim for a better La Liga season, however seeing as the team has been weakened over the summer it remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to improve on their third place finish.

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Brazil Legend Ronaldo Confirms He’s ‘Back Home’ After 4-Day Stay in Hospital

Brazilian legend Ronaldo Nazario is back home, having been discharged from hospital after being admitted as a result of pneumonia.

The former ?Real Madrid galactico spent four days at medical facilities, firstly being taken to a hospital in Ibiza, Spain and then getting transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of a private establishment.

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Ronaldo has since taken to social media to thank fans who wished him well, as well as the medical personnel who looked after him during his unfortunate ordeal.

Hello, everyone! I’m home after a few days at the clinic,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “Thank you for your love and comments and many thanks to the team of doctors and nurses for your kindness and hospitality. 

“Thank you @celinalocks for being by my side in every hour. It’s going to be a very nice season and full of magnificent football and surprises.”

The former striker, now 41, helped Brazil win two World Cups. He also won the Ballon d’Or on two occasions and played for five clubs in Europe during a remarkable career that could have been even more illustrious had it not been for serious injuries.

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Sergio Ramos Sticks the Boot Into Jurgen Klopp in Response to Persistent Jibes From Liverpool Coach

Real Madrid defender and Champions League winner Sergio Ramos has responded to Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp’s latest jibes with a few barbs of his own – by digging out his recent record in major finals.

The two have been engaged in a war of words since Real’s 3-1 Champions League final win over the Reds in May, with Klopp taking particular issue with two incidents involving the Spaniard during the game. 

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

His foul on ?Mohamed Salah – which ended the Egyptian’s involvement in the showcase in Kiev – and apparent elbow on Loris Karius, which caused a concussion, have been Klopp’s particular points of contention. The two moments were key to Real winning the game, and while Ramos has claimed both were accidental, Klopp hasn’t seen it that way.

Over 500,000 ?Liverpool fans haven’t either, as they actually signed a petition for the match to be replayed, but Klopp has called out Ramos in two separate press conferences in the last couple of weeks.

?At the end of July, Klopp said: “If you watch it back and you are not with ?Real Madrid – then you think it is ruthless and brutal. If VAR is coming then it is a situation where you have to look again. Not to give a red card but to look again and say: ‘What is that?’ It was ruthless.

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“I’m not sure it is an experience we will have again – go there and put an elbow to the goalkeeper, put their goalscorer down like a wrestler in midfield and then you win the game. That was the story of the game. 

“Ramos said a lot of things afterwards that I didn’t like. As a person I didn’t like the reactions of him. He was like: ‘Whatever, what do they want? It’s normal.’ No, it is not normal. If you put all of the situations of Ramos together then you will see a lot of situations with Ramos. 

“The year before against Juve he was responsible for the red card for [Juan] Cuadrado. Nobody talks about that afterwards.”

Just last week, he carried on to Sport1: “I don’t want to win by any means. Of course I would have liked to become a Champions League winner, and I would not have returned the title if shown various indiscretions.

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“I do not expect that from him, I only expect that he gives more thought to his assessment of certain situations. It may have been a coincidence, but Salah was taken out of the game during an outstanding phase of his footballing life, in the middle of the field.

“Many people will say that these things happen. But if that is the message we are sending to our children, that nothing is out of bounds and it’s all about winning, then I will be glad to leave this planet in 40 years.

“Am I a good loser? No. But during our preparations we had to talk about Ramos because he had influenced the final the previous year with a dive and a red card against Juventus.”

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?Ramos’ actions in that game helped Real win, and they now embark on a UEFA Super Cup clash with local rivals Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night as a result. And ahead of the game, Ramos has responded, via ?Marca, by digging out the German for winning only one of seven major finals he’s competed in as a manager.

He said: “I already gave my opinion and I reiterate again, it is not intentional. It’s not the first final he’s lost, [maybe] he wants to use that as an excuse for losing. 

“There have been many repercussions after what happened to Salah in the Champions League final. Let Klopp worry about his own players. In fact, he’s one of the coaches I voted for as the Best of the Year, so perhaps he can stay a little calmer.”

?Real play Atletico in Talinn on Wednesday night, hoping to win the Super Cup for the third consecutive year.

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Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid Preview: Recent Form, Team News, Prediction & More

Starting off their competitive campaigns in Estonia this Wednesday are ?Real Madrid and ?Atletico Madrid. Finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively last season, both will want to challenge ?Barca in ?La Liga this year.

However, league finish has nothing to do with qualifying for this match, as it pits two of Europe’s finest from last term. A third Champions League title in a row for Los Blancos has put this squad down in history. With talisman ?Cristiano Ronaldo departing to ?Juventus this summer, it’s now somebody else’s turn to pick up the mantle. 

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

As the Spanish transfer window runs longer than the English, both teams have plenty of time to get more business done. It’s been suggested that new Real boss Julen Lopetegui would like two signings, one being a forward. With Eden Hazard and ?Kylian Mbappe transfer talk circulating, will the Spanish giants replace Ronaldo or give others already at the club a chance?

It’s Los Rojiblancos who have done their business early however, with the club record signing of Thomas Lemar from Monaco for a reported £63m. The astute signings of Rodri, Gelson Martins, Nikola Kalinic and Santiago Arias have also been brought in to bulk up the squad. 

Hoping to challenge for more silverware this season, the current Europa League holders will debut their new metal against the most hated of foes. Coveting an elusive Champions League title more than all, Alteti go up against the team who’ve beaten them in two of the last five finals.

Here is all you need to know ahead of the clash:


Recent Form

These clubs have had differing pre-season campaigns. Real went on a United States tour for their ICC games, playing in Miami, Washington D.C., and New York against ?Manchester United, Juventus and Roma – the Spanish giants won two out of three. ?Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio were standouts, with the pair grabbing goals in multiple matches. 

Real Madrid v AS Roma - International Champions Cup 2018

Atleti’s form has been slightly more patchy. After beating ?Arsenal on penalties in Singapore, Los Rojiblancos were defeated 3-2 by a last minute goal against PSG. In their latest outing, they lost 1-0 at home to? Inter Milan. Not exactly instilling confidence for this tie, Simeone may brush these results off due to squad rotation and players finding match fitness.


Team News

Starting with Real, the big question is whether influential midfielder Luka Modric is fit to play. Los Blancos’ man has been subject to a transfer inquiry from Internazionale, and rumours suggest he may be interested in a new challenge. Returning early to pre-season, the Croat is seemingly focused on the task at hand however, which should at least partly reassure Madridistas. 

As far as injuries go, only centre-back Jesus Vallejo and new signing Alvaro Odriozola are in line to miss out. Likely not changing manager Julen Lopetegui’s plans for the match, Real Madrid have little to worry about. With no limit to bench slots, Los Blancos’ new man in charge has brought a squad of 29, giving himself a great number of options to choose from. 

Club Atletico de Madrid Training Session

Atleti also come into the game with very few injury worries, causing a selection headache for manager Diego Simeone. Frenchmen Antione Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez only returned this week, so may be given more rest time. However, with an opportunity for a trophy against their greatest rivals, don’t be surprised to see the Argentinean pick his full strength side.

It’s unknown whether new additions Gelson Martins, Santiago Arias, and Rodri play, or if Simeone goes with his known troops. Angel Correa, Juanfran, and Thomas Partey are all fit, so there could be some mixing and matching. A battle between Jose Maria Gimenez and Stefan Savic to partner Diego Godin at centre-back also heightens the intrigue.


Prediction

Both these teams will likely see this match as a viable opportunity to hit the ground running this season.

Differing in pre-season form, Real fans may travel to Tallinn more confident of a result. At the moment, the squad advantage is fairly level. Therefore, whether Antoine Griezmann or Luka Modric are fit enough to return after a short World Cup turn around will go a long way to deciding the victor of this game.

Real Madrid will likely utilise a 4-3-3 formation, with Karim Benzema leading the line. Important to Los Blancos will be the physicality of Casemiro and creativity of Isco. Likely starting on the right side, the Spaniard will slot in more centrally if formation changes are needed. It should also be interesting to see if Lopetegui picks Keylor Navas, or deadline day signing Thibaut Courtois in goal.

Real Madrid v AC Milan - Pre-Season Friendly

Atleti are expected to utilise a 4-4-2 formation, with Koke and Thomas Lemar starting out wide. If Griezmann is short of match fitness – after only returning to training on Monday – it is likely new boy Nikola Kalinic will start up top, with bruiser Diego Costa alongside. However, it’s probable the Frenchman will make an appearance at some stage, with his presence the possible tie-breaker in such a tightly contested match.

Prediction: Real Madrid 1-2 Atletico Madrid (aet)

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Real Madrid Summer Signing Ruled Out of Super Cup Showdown With Thigh Strain

?Real Madrid summer signing Alvaro Odriozola will miss their Super Cup showdown with ?Atletico Madrid and continue to be assessed after the club confirmed the defender has been diagnosed with a thigh strain. 

New boss Julen Lopetegui confirmed last week that the £35m right back had suffered a knock during training, stating: “Alvaro Odriozola had a problem today, but otherwise everything is fine.”

However, as reported by the club’s ?official website, following tests, the player was diagnosed with grade one strain. 

“After the tests carried out today by the Real Madrid Sanitas Medical Services on our player Álvaro Odriozola, he has been diagnosed with a grade one injury in the abductor of the right leg,” the statement read. “His recovery will continue to be assessed.”

Although no timeframe has been placed on Odriozola’s return, with the issue only grade one it is unlikely the Spain World Cup star will be absent long-term. 

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However, it does hint that the 22-year-old could be unavailable for selection when Los Blancos take on Atletico Madrid in the Uefa Super Cup on Wednesday evening. 

The Estonia-hosted contest will see last year’s Champions League winners take on 2017/18’s Europa League victors, as well as provide the first Madrid derby of the campaign. 

Despite the obvious geographical rivalry, Thibaut Courtois’ expected inclusion – following his move from ?Chelsea to Los Blancos earlier this month – should add some extra spice into the tie, with the player spending three years at Atleti ahead of his ?Premier League spell. 

However, it will not be a baptism of fire for Odriozola, who could potentially be looking towards Getafe and beyond to make his first appearance for the club. 

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