UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid kick off their brand new La Liga campaign with a trip to Anoeta Stadium on Sunday. Zinedine Zidane is faced with a couple of selection dilemmas, but will look to make the most of the season’s opener against injury-laden Real Sociedad.
Real Sociedad fighting against tradition
The Royals are facing an uphill battle at Anoeta on Sunday as they prepare to welcome great Real Madrid in a match that will see hosts fighting against tradition and huge selection problems against Los Blancos. Eusebio Sacristan’s men boast a terrible record against the capital city side with the Txuri-urdin having won just 24 of their 138 meetings with Real Madrid. Just 18 La Liga victories against Los Blancos is not a promising number and Real Sociedad’s only chance seems to be the fact that one of those past 18 wins came in August, when Carlo Ancelotti’s side were dealt to a 4-2 blow at the beginning of the 2014-15 season. In addition to poor tradition, hosts will have serious injury problems to think about ahead Real Madrid’s visit. Despite the fact several key players will be missing, Eusebio Sacristan is hopeful that new players might play some part in helping Real Sociedad remain unbeaten in the first match of the new campaign. The Royals brought a couple of good signings during the transfer window in the likes of forwards Willian Jose from Maldonado and Juanmi from Southampton who will be expected to play an important role in the Sunday’s match.
Sergio Canales is on his way to recovery from a knee injury but Real Madrid clash is coming too soon for Real Sociedad midfielder. Imanol Agirretxe is still to come back from an injury he sustained in Sociedad’s visit to Santiago Bernabeu last season. In addition, Raul Navas, Jon Gaztanaga and Inigo Martinez are all ruled out for the hosts.
No Ronaldo, no problem?
Unlike Real Sociedad who have their options seriously limited due to a number of injuries to their players, Real Madrid’s depth is expected to be enough to compensate for the absence of team’s first star Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal international is yet to recover from a knee injury he picked up in the UEFA Euro 2016 finals against France in July. Zinedine Zidane’s side have opened the new 2016-17 season on a high having won the UEFA Super Cup clash against Sevilla and Los Blancos will be highly motivated to open the La Liga season with a win as well. Real Madrid have been remarkably silent during the transfer window as UEFA’s transfer ban approaches with Zinedine Zidane choosing to adopt a completely different approach to Florentino Perez’s lavished spending. Los Blancos did not spend a penny more than €30 million they invested in bringing Alvaro Morata back from Juventus, but their move was thought to be nothing more than an investment in a player they allegedly plan to sell in order to make profit. Zinedine Zidane turned his focus to homegrown players such as Marcos Llorente who has been promoted from Castilla and Marco Asensio, a talented attacking midfielder who was given a chance to shine following his loan at Espanyol last season. The youngster grabbed it with both hands and is expected to fill in Ronaldo’s shoes until the Portugal superstar gets fit.
In addition to Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid will be without Karim Benzema who is struggling with a hip problem. Alvaro Morata has been the latest first team member to join the injury list with a foot injury he sustained in training. Mateo Kovacic, Keylor Navas and Fabio Coentrao are all out due to their respective injuries as well.
Despite several high-profile selection issues, Zinedine Zidane’s men are considered firm favourites to grab all three points during their visit to Anoeta Stadium. Tradition is against the hosts, who will have plenty of problems replacing their injured players for a clash with one of the major favourites to win the La Liga title this year.
Top pick: Real Madrid 1.75 (3/4) @Bet365
Alternative pick 1: Real Madrid to win to nil 3.25 (9/4) @PaddyPower
Alternative pick 2: Both teams to score – No 2.25 (5/4) @BetVictor