21:15 BST, Sunday 19th August, Bernabeu, Eleven Sports
The league season might not yet have started but new Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui is already under pressure after his team capitulated to a 4-2 extra time defeat against local rivals Atletico in Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup.
If he didn’t already know it, the reaction to that defeat will have quickly taught Lopetegui that life at Real Madrid is permanently on the edge of a crisis. He desperately needs a strong performance and comfortable victory this weekend to prevent any more storm clouds from gathering even at this early stage of the campaign.
Visitors Getafe make the short journey aiming to compound Lopetegui’s misery. They will not be an easy team to break down after conceding only 33 goals – the third best in the league – during last season’s eighth-place finish.
There might be a huge gulf in finances and talent between the two teams but the Bernabeu could still prove to be a very nervy place for Real Madrid on Sunday night.
Last Time Out
Real Madrid 2-4 Atletico Madrid (UEFA Super Cup)
A dramatic evening in Estonia saw Real’s season get off to the worst possible start by surrendering the Super Cup title to Atletico in an action-packed encounter.
Diego Costa blasted the Rojiblancos ahead inside the opening minute but Real bounced back from their woeful start and gradually became the better team.
REUTERS/Ints KalninsThey duly levelled when Gareth Bale delivered a brilliant deep cross for Karim Benzema to head home at the far post before going ahead after Sergio Ramos converted a second-half penalty.
However, an error from Marcelo allowed Costa to pounce again to force extra time and Atletico surged clear in the additional period, claiming the trophy with exquisitely taken strikes through midfielders Koke and Saul, plunging Real into a mini-crisis even before the league campaign has kicked off.
Getafe 3-3 Girona (Friendly)
Getafe’s pre-season preparations concluded last weekend with an eventful 3-3 friendly draw against fellow top-flight side Girona.
Jose Bordalas’s defensively resolute team headed into the game having kept clean sheets in each of their five previous warm-ups. However, this proved to be a very different encounter as Borja Garcia sent Girona ahead early on and Choco Lozano made it 2-0 before the break.
Getafe pulled one back straight after the break through Jorge Molina before Juanpe restored Girona’s two-goal advantage.
In the end, though, the home team rallied to ensure parity with a pair of late goals from frontman Angel, meaning Getafe can head into the new season after staying unbeaten throughout pre-season.
Real Madrid Lineup
The big question for home team coach Lopetegui, especially after seeing his team ship four goals in midweek, is whether Keylor Navas should be replaced in goal by Thibaut Courtois.
Despite the recent signing’s limited training with his new teammates, the pressure is on to change something up.
Another question mark is whether Luka Modric will be left on the bench, as he was in midweek, or elevated into the starting eleven – probably at the expense of Marco Asensio with Isco shifting out to the wing.
Visiting boss Bordalas has several new signings at his disposal.
One player under particular pressure is new goalkeeper David Soria, who is expected to get the nod to replace last season’s stalwart Vicente Guaita, now with Crystal Palace.
Serbian international Nemanja Maksimovic is likely to make his debut in the centre of midfield and striker Jaime Mata should also get his first start after rattling home a remarkable 35 goals for Real Valladolid in the Segunda Division last season.
Key Battle: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) vs Djene Dakonam (Getafe)
One of the bright spots for Real from their midweek Super Cup defeat was a strong performance for Karim Benzema, who capped a bright all-round display with a well-taken headed goal from Gareth Bale’s deep cross.
The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from the Bernabeu and the club’s surprising reluctance to enter the transfer market has left Benzema as the only established striker at the club.
The Frenchman is under heavy pressure to deliver after only scoring five goals in 32 outings last season.
REUTERS/Maxim ShemetovThe man standing in Benzema’s way is Getafe central defender Djene Dakonam, who was a major factor behind his team’s outstanding defensive record last season as Getafe conceded just 33 goals – 11 fewer than Real.
It was the Togo international’s first season in Spain after an under-the-radar move from Belgian club Sint-Truidense, but his remarkably consistent and dependable performances led to a summer of speculation that he would be snapped up by a bigger club.
For now, though, Djene remains with Getafe and will be aiming to further enhance his reputation by stifling Benzema at the Bernabeu.
Real aim to ease the tension
This might sound like a crazy thing to say about a team which has just won three consecutive Champions League titles, but Real Madrid are heading into the new league season.
A combination of last season’s third-place finish (17 points behind Barcelona), the departures of Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane, the lack of activity in the transfer market and the midweek collapse against Atletico means that new boss Julen Lopetegui will be met with a blanket of scepticism on his home debut.
REUTERS/Ints KalninsEven on the opening day of the season, this is absolutely a must-win game for Real. The Spanish media would go to town on anything less than three points and, although Lopetegui is ultimately aiming to mould his team into a smooth collective unit featuring flowing attacking football, right now only one thing matters: winning.
Happy homecoming for Soria?
Along with Djene, one of the biggest heroes for Getafe last season was goalkeeper Guaita and his departure to the Premier League could prove to be a big blow.
The replacement between the posts is Madrid-born David Soria, who is back in familiar surroundings this weekend after spending his teenage years in Real’s youth ranks.
He never made the first team at the Bernabeu and subsequently joined Sevilla, gradually working his way up to become cup goalkeeper before featuring in the 2016 Europa League triumph. But he was never able to establish a regular starting spot.
Now, at the age of 25, a summer transfer to Getafe has now finally given him the chance to add to his meagre tally of 16 league appearances. There could be no more challenging start than against a hungry and desperate Real Madrid… but there is no greater reward than a clean sheet at the Bernabeu.
Prediction: Real Madrid 1-0 Getafe
It will be tight and it will be nervy, with Getafe’s defensive excellence forcing Real to work hard to create chances and the home fans becoming increasingly edgy the longer the stalemate stays intact.
Getafe will not be pushovers and the physical after-effects of the midweek Super Cup trip to eastern Europe could also work against the hosts.
In the end, the flow of constant pressure should be enough to secure a hard-earned home win, but chances will be at a premium.