La Liga 2021/22 preview: Real Madrid

Real Madrid kick off their 2021/22 campaign with a trip north to take on Alavés at Mendizorrotza.

Summer Transfer Business

Real Madrid haven’t spent a penny this summer, however, the club have added a top-class player in David Alaba. With both Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane leaving the club, the addition of the Austrian will be crucial for Carlo Ancelotti this season. Alaba arrived as a free agent after his Bayern Munich contract ran out in June. Experienced and versatile, the Austrian can be expected to be the number one starter in the centre of defence alongside either Nacho or Éder Militão.

Transfer activity in 2021 summer window

Players in: David Alaba (Bayern Munich, free transfer), Martin Ødegaard, Gareth Bale, Dani Ceballos, Luka Jovic, Take Kubo, Brahim Díaz, Jesús Vallejo (returned from loans)

Players out: Víctor Chust (Cádiz, loan), Diego Altube (Fuenlabrada, loan), Brahim Díaz (AC Milan, loan), Take Kubo (Real Mallorca, loan), Sergio Ramos (PSG, free transfer), Raphaël Varane (Manchester United, €50 million)

The Manager

Carlo Ancelotti returns to Madrid, taking over from his former assistant at the club, Zinedine Zidane. A popular figure last time out at the Santiago Bernabéu, the Italian will be hoping for a strong start to the season despite several injuries to experienced players, including Toni Kroos. Martin Ødegaard has been strongly linked with a return to Arsenal. The Norwegian was hoping for regular football but it now appears that Ancelotti has made his intentions clear and won’t be giving him the game time he wants. He could be the head coach that kickstarts Eden Hazard’s time at the club. So far it has been a really difficult spell for the Belgian, with multiple injuries keeping him out for months on end. Gareth Bale is also available again after a spell on loan at Tottenham. It remains to be seen how Ancelotti deploys the two attackers but one thing is for sure: Karim Benzema will be leading the line for Madrid once again.

Key Player

Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2018, Karim Benzema has taken full responsibility for spearheading Los Blancos’ attack. The 33-year-old has been sensational in front of goal over the past couple of seasons, scoring 22 goals in LaLiga in 2020/21. With Ancelotti not counting on Luka Jovic or Mariano Díaz, he will need more of the same from Benzema this season if Madrid are to reclaim the league title.

Likely XI in 2021/22

Courtois – Carvajal, Militão, Alaba, Mendy – Casemiro, Kroos, Modric – Valverde, Benzema, Hazard.

One for the future

Antonio Blanco has been named in Madrid’s squad for the game against Alavés. The 21-year-old defensive midfielder is highly regarded at Valdebebas and could be a crucial member of the first-team squad as Ancelotti rotates across the season. Promoted from Real Madrid Castilla, Blanco made a handful of first-team appearances in 2020/21 under Zidane. He has represented Spain from U17 all the way to senior level. Two other academy players who Ancelotti can be expected to call upon this season are Sergio Arribas and Miguel Gutiérrez, who both got senior game time under Zidane last year.

Final Position: 2nd

Ancelotti’s old guard will be key to Madrid’s season. If the spine of Casemiro, Kroos, Modric and Benzema can stay fit, they will be in the mix come the end of the season. Courtois has also become a leader at the club and without Varane and Ramos, will play a huge role as Alaba settles in and Ancelotti discovers his preferred back four. Kylian Mbappé continues to be linked with a move to the Spanish capital. Reports in France suggest that Madrid could make a bid for the PSG forward before the end of the summer transfer window. If Mbappé does end up at Madrid, he could well prove to be the key in taking the La Liga title off cross-city neighbours Atlético Madrid.

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