The powers-that-be finally released the Liga BBVA schedule today and boy, do things get tough fast. Real Madrid will kick off the new season on August 24 when Cordoba comes to visit. On paper, this should be a breeze for Madrid but keep in mind that the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Atlético de Madrid takes place on August 22.
Once the Cordoba game is over, the schedule becomes noticeably more difficult. An away game against Real Sociedad before reigning league champs Atleti make the trip to the Bernabeu on September 14. Following that is Deportivo at home and Elche away which will be a nice break from the two tough games prior. The schedule gets tough again after that as a road trip to Villarreal awaits followed by Athletic Club de Bilbao visiting the Bernabeu and a potentially tricky game at Levante following that.
However, the moment everyone is waiting for will be El Clasico at the Bernabeu on the weekend of October 25/26 (the date will be determined later for TV reasons). Interesting to note is that this is the exact weekend where Luis Suarez's ban is set to end, but reports that Barca will try and appeal his ban through the Court of Arbitration for Sport should keep everyone on their toes. Even if the ban is upheld up to that point and he's technically allowed to play, he likely won't have much of an impact, if at all, given that he's unable to train his teammates and won't be on the same wavelength with them.
Following El Clasico, the schedule eases up with Granada (a), Rayo Vallecano (h), Eibar (a), Malaga (a), Celta Vigo (h), Almeria (a) and Sevilla (h) on the docket before the new year. From this batch, only Sevilla should be a serious threat to steal points but the game is at home and Sevilla might be a weaker team this season as compared to last year.
The new year starts off with a solid test as Valencia will come to the Bernabeu while the men in white will have to travel to battle Espanyol the following week. Two road games against Getafe and Codroba follow before giving way to a grueling two weeks of Real Sociedad (h) and Atleti (a). Following that are Deportivo (h) and Elche (a) before yet another tough four weeks against Villarreal (h), Bilbao (a), Levante (h) and the Clasico away on March 22.
Following the second Clasico, the schedule eases up for the most part. Granada, Rayo Vallecano (h), Eibar (a), Malaga (h), Celta Vigo (h), Almeria (h), Sevilla (a), Valencia (h), Espanyol (a) and Getafe (h) close out the season. Of this bunch, the trio of Sevilla, Valencia and Espanyol can steal points and especially when two of those are away games.
So what are we to make of this schedule? Well, a couple of things. The start to the season is HARD. Cordoba should be a nice break from the Super Cup but this team needs to gel quickly with six very tricky matches in the span of two months, coupled with Champions League and Copa Del Rey games in between. This is a scenario where Real Madrid could fall behind early again and the start of the season could be seen as a make-or-break. Second, the turn of the year could be vital with the Sevilla-Valencia-Espanyol trio testing the guys' focus around winter break, not to mention the exact same trio facing Madrid near the very end of the season. Third, March is going to be likely the last big test of this season's success with Villarreal-Bilbao-Levante-Barca lining up.
In a nutshell: tough in the beginning, tough in the middle and an all-around tough second half when the Champions League will truly be testing this club from all sides. This is certainly a league-winning squad, but the schedule makers did them no favors this season. The league won't be lost early but it's going to be incredibly important to set the right winning tone from the start. Hopefully Carlo can navigate the boys through this tricky schedule.