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Real Madrid: Season Preview 2017/18

How do you improve on near-perfection? Well, that is the question that Zinedine Zidane will be facing with his Real Madrid side this season.


2016/17 Recap

Los Blancos had their best season in 58 years as they won La Liga and became the first team in 27 years to retain the Champions League. 

They played some scintillating football towards the end of the season with star man Cristiano Ronaldo in his now usual otherworldly form and Isco on fire. The team in general just proved to be a cut above their counterparts both domestically and continentally, defeating all emphatically, on their way to winning the Champions League. Zidane’s rotations also highlighted the squad depth on offer. 

It’s almost impossible to really find a negative in the season, even though the season could have been better if they had put in a more concerted effort against Celta Vigo in the Copa Del Rey. That part was disappointing for Madridistas but, by the end of the season, few of them had any complaints about how well the season ended.

Transfer Activity

Ins

Jesus Vallejo, CB (loan returnee) 

Marcos Llorente, MF (loan returnee) 

Theo Hernandez,  LB (€30 million) 

Dani Ceballos, MF (€18 million)

Outs

Álvaro Morata, ST (€70 million)

Pepe, CB (Free) 

 Fabio Coentrao, LB (Loan) 

Danilo, RB (€30 million) 

James Rodriguez, MF (€5 million, loan)

Most important player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Rumours spread after the end of the season that Ronaldo was on his way out of Madrid due to his battles with the taxman. 

The rumours dominated the minds of Madridistas who couldn’t imagine their hero leaving the club, just when it looked like they were on the cusp of something really great. 

Thankfully, the rumours were unfounded as he has since said he was going to continue. He was by far and away the best player in the team and indeed the world at the business end of last season as he racked up goal after goal, hat-trick after hat-trick in big European ties and seemingly difficult league matches ultimately leading the Whites to a league and Champions League double. 

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He has started the season in like fashion with his brilliant goal in El Clasico restoring his team’s lead. As long as the goals in his boots, fire in his eyes and desire in his veins do not abate, Los Blancos can look forward to more success this season.

One to Watch: Marcos Llorente

For so long, Real Madrid have not had a player capable of replacing Casemiro in the anchor role at the base of the midfield, Zizou has used several players in the role, Kovacic, Kroos etc but none has been able to bring to the table what the Brazilian brings. The win percentage drops when he’s unavailable, the squad looks unbalanced, he was the only one in the team that didn’t have a direct replacement. 

The club has set about finding a player worthy of giving him rest when needed and, with the return of Marcos Llorente from Alaves, they’ve found a perfect player for that. 

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He was a key player in the side that stunned La Liga last season, winning at the Nou Camp, securing a 1-1 draw at the Calderon as well as a historic run to the final of the Copa Del Rey. He had the most tackles in La Liga last season, was a huge part of the Spain squad that got to the final of the U21 Euros, he switches play easily and doesn’t need to foul his man to get the ball, such is his positional awareness. 

Working under Zizou and learning from his more established teammates will only hone his skills and boost his learning curve.

Biggest Weakness: Target Man (Or lack of) 

If preseason showed the world one thing, it’s that Zizou’s Madrid loves a target man. The absence of a target man was one of the reasons the team was unable to win any of the games in normal time, as Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale are not players who would dwell in the box waiting for the cross. They prefer to get more involved and serve as foils for the target man, who was Ronaldo for the better part of the season. 

When the Portuguese was absent, the team was looking disjointed and only moments of individual brilliance brought the goals. The game that aptly demonstrates this was during the UEFA Super Cup as they defeated Man United 2-1 but, despite their domination of the midfield, they were hanging on by the end, and it wasn’t the victory their domination deserved. 

Ronaldo was rested to great effect last season but if there’s no point man to play in his absence, it could have effects on how successful the season ends.

Predicted formation

Going by the formation that served Zidane so well towards the end of last season, and one he has continued to use this season, it’s the one with the world’s best midfield trio that comes out on top. 

They’ve schooled the midfields of Barcelona and Man United in their last 3 games, and he seems to have perfected the 4-3-1-2 formation. With Ronaldo and Benzema scoring the goals and Isco wrecking creative havoc behind them with his dribbles and incisive passing unlocking defences, it’s the trio behind them that do the most effective work. 

Toni Kroos dictates the tempo of the game and switches play from his position; Luka Modric runs opponents ragged with his turns and outside of the boot passes, connecting the midfield with the defence; and Casemiro tackles everything and everyone behind them, whilst still having his occasional forward forays. 

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The defence is set in stone with the quartet of Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal occupying the positions in the back four. Their duties in Zizou’s lineup are well-known. 

The anomaly here is what to do with Bale as Zizou sees value in him but due to injuries he’s been unable to play him and has seemingly found a formation that works even better without him. What he does when everyone is fit is another decision he’s going to have to make.

Season expectations

The onus will be on Zidane to repeat the success of last season and with wins in both Super Cups against teams like Man United and Barcelona, no less, it looks like he’s going to do well once again. 

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The team would be expected to win the league, the Copa Del Rey, and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, at the very least. History has taught us never to rule them out of creating history. Perez is one for whom past success counts for very little so if Zizou is to remain in his good books, he’s to continue to win, win and win. 

RealSport Prediction: 1st

Real Madrid are currently going through one of the best times in their history while it’s the opposite in Barcelona, they both can’t seem to be successful at the same time, can they? 

Well, the odds are stacked against Barcelona winning the Liga and as they’re Madrid’s biggest opponents for it, this would be a big failure if Los Blancos fail to capitalise on their rivals poor transfer window and win the league like they did last season as the core of the squad now knows what it takes to win the title. It’ll take a brave man to bet against them doing just that.

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Marshall Carletto

I'm a football loving guy like most guys my age and I love to talk about it and give insights on how things should pan out as well as write articles about La Liga but mostly about Real Madrid.

Real Madrid: Season Preview 2017/18

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