Real Madrid play their first home match of the 2019/20 season on Saturday as they play host to Real Valladolid.
Zinedine Zidane will demand nothing less than a win against a side that finished two places above the relegation zone last term, while the Bernabeu crowd won’t be satisfied unless the visitors are put to the sword by a revamped Los Blancos outfit.
Heavy investments were made during the summer to breathe new life into a weary squad that fell way short of expectations. No silverware was added to the cabinet, though painful memories were etched into the minds of supporters and players alike; the latter must ensure those ghosts are laid to rest.
Here’s how Madrid should line up to continue their encouraging start to the campaign.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – Though he lost his place in the starting lineup midway through last season, the Belgian has once again been handed the gloves as Zidane aims to make 2018/19 a distant memory. The coach has made his decision and it is only logical that he sticks with it.
Alvaro Odriozola (RB) – The definition of a modern full-back, Odriozola provides the searing pace and crossing accuracy that allows Madrid’s forwards to push inside and pressurise opponents. The 23-year-old is reliable, highly-capable and has the steady mind-set needed to cope with heavy scrutiny from the fans.
Raphael Varane (CB) – When people debate who is the best centre-back in the world, Varane is regularly mentioned. It’s extremely difficult to find a fault in his game.
Eder Militao (CB) – It is no disrespect to Valladolid to say the hosts should take victory at a canter. That makes it the ideal time to blood the £40m signing, who is yet to be given his competitive debut by Zidane.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – Just like Militao, new left-back Mendy must be eased into the team. Selecting him for Saturday’s game is low risk for two reasons: the opposition are very beatable and there is plenty of time to recover
Casemiro (CM) – The Brazilian has a tireless engine and a mean tackle, yet can also spray the ball about like his nationality would suggest. With Casemiro guarding the backline, any Valladolid counters should be shut down before they truly begin.
Toni Kroos (CM) – Regardless of who you’re playing against, you always know what you’ll get from Kroos: incisive passing and control in the centre of the pitch. That combination should both keep the visitors’ possession to a minimum and aid in carving out opportunities.
Isco (CAM) – Luka Modric was evidently flagging for much of last year, with all three of Real’s managers placing a heavy workload on the Croat’s shoulders. To keep him fresh for heavyweight match-ups, playmaking duties should be handed to Isco for games such as this.
Gareth Bale (RW) – The wideman has spent his whole career proving his doubters wrong. Given Zidane’s repeated insistence that Bale was surplus to requirements in the Spanish capital, it would be no surprise to see him producing sparkling displays on a regular basis this campaign. Even the gaffer would be glad to see his own predictions proved wrong.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – Wing trio Brahim Diaz, Eden Hazard and Rodrygo are all sidelined by injuries. On the one hand, that is a troublesome set of circumstances. However, it can be played to Los Blancos’ advantage if they help Vinicius’ development and offer him more time on the field.
Luka Jovic (ST) – This is clearly the match for new faces to be introduced to supporters at the Bernabeu. Let Jovic loose from the off and he could become an instant hero in Madrid; Valladolid are there for the taking and the Serb is lethal.