Having locked up Rafa Varane's partner for the future, a versatile central midfielder capable of playing several roles and a young keeper who'll be ready to take over for Keylor in a few years, I went ahead with the preseason in anticipation to the two legs against Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup. I ramped up fitness training more than anything because I rate work rate incredibly highly and I want my guys to be pressing hard without becoming exhausted.
With the first leg at home, I decided to go all out to position myself well enough for the second leg in order to start my rotation system. Needless to say, my fast paced aggressive strategy worked as we stormed to a surprising 5-0 win in which we limited Atleti to only three shots with none on target thanks to 64 percent possession. Also, an early Mario Suarez sending off didn't hurt either. Here's how we fared for the next few weeks. Notice how once you get on a roll, it's really hard to get off of it.
I'm very pleased with how the first month or so went. We got drawn into a pretty tough Champions League group which includes Man City, Sporting and Feyenoord, none which will be pushovers. Honestly though, Real Madrid is quite overpowered right now and very few teams pose any kind of challenge. The 90th minute winner against 10-man Feyenoord was surprisingly nervy, but many of the guys were fatigued after the Atleti game so the result is understandable. Aside from a Pepe knock which kept him out of action for about a week, I've been pretty lucky to avoid any major injuries so far and that makes me as happy as the results themselves. Several of the kids in the youth teams picked up semi-serious knocks but as I'm planning on overhauling the youth teams I'm not too worried.
Tactically, I've been thinking a lot about the 4-2-3-1 and I'm just not sold on its defensive stability. However, the 4-4-2 I've set is too weak offensively with too many players standing around and not making incisive runs, so I've opted for a sort of 4-3-2-1 with three central-ish midfielders in James, Toni and Luka. I admit that I've used this setup in another Madrid save in FM15 and it works incredibly, the pressing is crisp as I've set every player to mark more tightly and prevent short goalkeeper distribution and gaps are thoroughly covered, while the wide play is astounding in attack. The only thing I'm worried about is CR being a shot monster and Bale and Benz sometimes suffering for it, as evidenced by their goal tallies. However, they're incredibly involved in buildup play so that helps. You can see it below.
And the players' average position in-game:
On the transfer side, I sent my scouts all over the world to look for the next great Real Madrid striker, but one name clearly stood out to me and that's Ajax's Richairo Zivkovic, someone I'm a big fan of in real life. The problem is that Ajax won't part with him for anything less than 59m so I'm forced to look elsewhere. Nicolas Lopes of Verona, Gabriel Barbosa (he of FM14 fame) at Santos, Ewandro of Sao Paolo and PSV's Memphis Depay are all options, albeit incredibly expensive ones. Maybe I'll look to shift to a strikerless system when Benz needs a rest and opt for total control and off-ball movement with Isco or James in his place. I won't lie though, Barcelona's Munir's buyout clause of 16.75m is looking incredibly tempting as I'd be weakening a direct rival, but it's not a very realistic transfer so I probably won't go for it.
The one move I absolutely had to make is surrounding myself with a strong fitness and physio staff given how terrible the club's real world counterparts are. Injuries have been a plague in the current patch and I don't want deal with long-term knocks derailing my season. So far, I haven't had to put them to use much as the injury bug has thankfully avoided me.
So, we month down and we find ourselves at the top with an incredibly clean, dominant Barca, who have been doing great aside from blips against Levante and Malaga, right behind us. A pleasant surprise is Atleti getting off to a horrifically slow start, courtesy of our three straight wins over Cholo and company, but then they made up for it by catching a bit of fire. We'll see how long it lasts!