Preseason is over and it is now time for Madrid coach Rafa Benítez to prove that he was the right man for the vacancy at the Bernabeu following former coach Ancelotti’s axe. While results from the friendlies may not have been too encouraging, Madrid fans will be hopeful that their team hits the ground running against newly promoted Sporting de Gijón in Sunday night’s matchup.
With Jesé Rodríguez and Isco having had promising preseasons, Benítez will surely have a selection headache as he decides which man to drop for the three open spaces up front. Defensively, the Madrid coach must also decide between starting Dani Carvajal, who has no doubt had a better preseason and was an established player the previous year, or Danilo, whose potential is great and may impress fans with his dazzling football.
In what may prove to be a tough encounter at El Molinón, Benítez will be eager for his men to score early and to act as a composed and balanced defensive unit. No more tests and experiments – Real Madrid must go out on Sunday night and return home with all three points.
3 things to watch for:
- Who will Benítez play as his no. 10? The Welshman has been tipped for a more influential role within the team following Benítez’s arrival. While he only scored once in the preseason against former club Tottenham, Bale’s performances were improved, as the Welsh wizard participated more on the pitch. Still, Isco was considered by many as Real Madrid’s best player throughout the summer, and will surely only further contribute to Benítez’s selection dilemma.
- Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward was immense for Real Madrid last season in the league, scoring 48 goals. However, CR7 only managed to convert on one occasion throughout the entire summer. Earmarked to develop into a more traditional no. 9, Ronaldo will be looking to start the season with a goal or two. Expectations are always high for the Madrid legend.
- Madrid’s attacking prowess. Cristiano’s inability to routinely score was not the only worrying point of Los Blancos’ preseason. Throughout eight encounters in the summer, Benítez’s men failed to find the back of the net four times. Having scored more than a century of goals every season since Ronaldo’s arrival, Benítez will know that his Real Madrid team need to find their form early and start scoring goals.