While looking ahead to the new season, often expectations and predictions are marred by a clear bias. Every supporter thinks that either it’s their year or at the very least that they will fare better than one or more of their rivals. Keeping that in mind, we’ve found it interesting to see what rival supporters think of a team’s chances in the 2014-15 season.
This particular piece has the duo of Anustup Sikdar and Mark Ooi from our Barcelona blog, Cules’ Corner, and Marvyn Paul from our Atleti Blog, Read and White discussing Real Madrid ahead of the 2014-15 season.
What are Real Madrid’s objectives this season?
Anustup (Cules’ Corner): Of course nothing less than a sextuple. Barcelona have already got one and are the only Spanish team to do so. Madrid, with all their history and wealth, do not. So I don’t think anything less than all 6 trophies will satisfy them. However, if they somehow miss out on any one, then they will want at least the Treble.
Mark (Cules’ Corner): Real Madrid will be aiming to be the first club in the modern era to retain the Champions League. Another triumph in La Liga will undoubtedly be expected by the Madridisti. That is rightfully so as they have no excuses for failure after last season’s success in Europe and also considering Ancelotti has both a top notch Starting XI and also squad players who would be starters for almost any other team in Europe. Madrid will want to replicate Pep’s Barca and go for the Tripleta.
Marvyn (Read and White): After recruiting Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez after the World Cup, Real Madrid will see themselves as favourites to win every competition they enter. The existing core is intact, and barring the departure of Angel Di Maria the squad seems impeccable, so the management are not wrong in expecting results.
How do you think Real Madrid will do this season?
Anustup (Cules’ Corner): Real Madrid are on a high. They have won two key trophies last time and one of them is the coveted La Decima. However, ever since the inception of the UEFA Champions League, no team has successfully defended the title and I think Real will find it difficult to do so. But they are in pole position to win La Liga this year.
Mark (Cules’ Corner): I think Real Madrid will reach the Champions League final and win La Liga this season. Barca and Atleti are going through a transition period whilst Real Madrid have it in their own hands to kick on from their successful 2013/14 campaign. Los Blancos will have only themselves to blame if they don’t win at least the FIFA Club World Cup later this year as well as 2 titles out of La Liga, the UCL and the Copa del Rey.
Marvyn (Read and White): In Toni Kroos, Real Madrid have signed a gem of a player. The relatively modest transfer fee for a player of this calibre makes him, in my opinion, the best value signing in the window so far. While the fee for Rodriguez was inflated, Monaco and their Russian billionaire owner had to be coaxed into selling one of the team’s pivotal players. In my opinion replacing Di Maria with James is a sideways step, at best. Having a strong and versatile team, my money is on Real to finish 1st.
Who do you think will be Real Madrid’s key player?
Anustup (Cules’ Corner): To be honest, I have never been a fan of Madrid’s transfer policy. Somehow the Galactico concept doesn’t appeal to me. But they know the business of football very well. They buy well, and sell well. So I think that new goalkeeper Keylor Navas and Modric will play an important role this season. With Lopez all but leaving, and Iker nowhere near his dizzying best, it might just be Keylor’s season. But yes, I still remember Barcelona putting in 7 past Keylor last season. I hope he does something similar against us this season too.
Mark (Cules’ Corner): With Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury worries at the recent World Cup, Gareth Bale would be my pick for Real Madrid’s key player till the Christmas break. In the 2nd half of the season, Cristiano should be fully prepared to kick on and pick up from where he left things last season. Toni Kroos will link up superbly with Luka Modric.
Marvyn (Read and White): Gareth Bale showed over the duration of the last season that he can consistently cut it at the top level. Scoring the winning goals in both the Champions’ League and Copa del Rey, I think he can now go from strength to strength. If given direct free-kick duties and more freedom to roam and express himself, Bale will show the world why Real Madrid broke the world transfer record to land him.
What is Real Madrid’s biggest weakness?
Anustup (Cules’ Corner): They have amazing offensive players, and I won’t be surprised if they break the 100 goal barrier again in La Liga. But their problem might just be their defense. While Ramos is good and scores for them when required, he is also prone to momentary lapses and that might cost them at crucial junctures. Also in midfield, with Khedira moving out and Illarra not realizing his potential, Modric will have to operate from deep. Apart from him an ageing Alonso too doesn’t give them too much options – more so with Casemiro gone.
Mark (Cules’ Corner): Real Madrid’s biggest weaknesses would have to be themselves, in particular Florentino Perez. After Carlo Ancelotti finally found a balance to his team over the course of last season, Perez has once again gone for his usual Galactico transfer window campaign when it was not necessary. Ancelotti will have to reshuffle his side to accommodate James Rodriguez and the side might then lack the balance that they had last season.
Marvyn (Read and White): The most frightening part of this Real Madrid side is not the obvious dangers of talismans such as Ronaldo, Modric, and Bale, but the freedom Ancelotti has to chop and change his squad and still have XI players capable of beating almost any challenger, home and abroad. I think Real’s main vulnerability lies in lapses in discipline and concentration, and this is a problem that they are more than likely to bring upon themselves.
What do you think of Carlo Ancelotti as a manager? Is his job safe?
Anustup (Cules’ Corner): Perez has spent a fortune for this ensemble cast and under Carlo they have achieved the dream of laying hands on the elusive La Decima. There’s no way he is getting laid off, even if they have to go through a trophy-less season.
Mark (Cules’ Corner): At Real Madrid, no coach is ever safe. That said, Ancelotti has delivered La Decima and his astute decision-making and man-management should see him keep his players happy. There is arguably no one out there that would be a good enough and realistic (eg Pep would not join Madrid) replacement for Ancelotti.
Marvyn (Read and White): After Mourinho’s controversy-laden years in Madrid, Ancelotti was exactly the sort of coach needed to steady the ship and rebuild a damaged corporate reputation. His CV makes him among the best qualified for this job in the football world, and in bringing La Decima back to the Bernabeu last year he has written himself into club folklore. Barring an absolute capitulation in the league and Europe, I believe Ancelotti has the backing of the board to build a winning side for years to come.
Which young Talent Radar player do you see making the maximum impact?
Anustup (Cules’ Corner): Had Morata stayed, I would have named him. However he has moved on and in his absence I will name Jese. He’s an absolute gem. His abilities do say that he can reach the level of Cristiano, provided he works as hard as the latter. It’s a shame that he succumbed to an ACL injury. That’s a bad injury and usually takes a long time to heal. Here’s hoping for his quick recovery.
Mark (Cules’ Corner): Raphael Varane. Fully fit and with some World Cup experience under his belt, Varane will be raring to go and I believe he will usurp Pepe’s starting spot as Sergio Ramos’ partner in central defence. Varane will eventually be the rock on which Madrid’s defence is built and he will need to assert himself this season after the disappointments of last season.
Marvyn (Read and White): Having really surprised me at the World Cup, Raphael Varane is a very mature player. After his performances two years ago I thought he would be a flash-in-the-pan sort of player, but he has developed significantly since. He’s only 21 years old, and being a centre-back his peak is about 8-10 years away. If he keeps improving at this rate he could be the best defender the world has seen since Fabio Cannavaro.
What do you think of Real Madrid’s transfer activity? Who has been the best acquisition?
Anustup (Cules’ Corner): Real as usual have gone about their business with aplomb. They have made a couple of exceptional buys in Navas and Kroos. However, I am not totally convinced by James. He is a great talent indeed, has age on his side and glamour too which will help is the sale of merchandise, but from a footballing perspective, he is still not worth the money Real paid for him. But if asked about their best acquisition, it has to be Kroos.
Mark (Cules’ Corner): Real Madrid have strengthened superbly well on paper but the possible imbalance – eg needing to fit James Rodriguez into their already well-functioning system – could be their downfall. My pick for best acquisition would be Toni Kroos. With Xabi Alonso declining with each passing year, Kroos, along with Modric, will assume the heavy responsibility of running things in midfield. He is a world class midfield operator who will take Madrid’s midfield to the next level.
Marvyn (Read and White): If Real Madrid had a genuine need for Keylor Navas, I would list him as the club’s best transfer. As the club are generously stocked in that part of the field, I say Toni Kroos is going to be the pivotal new boy for Real Madrid. In my opinion he was the best player at the World Cup, and has been dominating games from midfield at Bayern for years now. Madrid was the perfect move for him to cement his place at the top of the game.
Read all our Cules’ Corner articles here.