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Season Preview 2015-16: Staff Predictions

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The Managing Madrid staff takes a whack at what the 2015 season may have in store for Real Madrid.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

A few of the Managing Madrid staff got together and made some predictions for both Real Madrid and La Liga in 2015-16.

Bozz

La Liga top 3 prediction: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid

La Liga bottom 3 prediction: Granada, Las Palmas, Eibar

Real Madrid top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo. However, I think his scoring will decrease and that scoring will be more spread out with potentially a half dozen players reaching double digit goals.

Real Madrid top assist man: James Rodriguez. If he stays healthy I think he'll be within shouting distance of 20 assists across all competitions.

Most intriguing player/player to watch: A lot of the talk this preseason has centered around Gareth Bale with the spotlight directly on him and his new role, but I'll be keeping my eye on Jese. The youngster has looked fully fit this preseason and will likely serve as a jack-of-all trades, primarily as Karim Benzema's unconventional backup. If healthy, he could make fans forget about the lack of a backup striker transfer.

Youngster to watch: On the first team, it has to be Mateo Kovacic. While I'm skeptical of this being the best club to develop him, the idea of a pacey dribbler from deep evokes memories of what Angel Di Maria did two years ago and that's a mouthwatering thought. I think he's going to be an excellent change of pace versus tired opposition off the bench. In the academy, it's Borja Mayoral and on loan it's Jesus Vallejo.

Most interesting position battle: Daniel Carvajal versus Danilo. Carvajal showed himself as one of the most promising RBs in the world in 2013-2014 but last year was a big regression in my opinion. Meanwhile, Danilo's excellent past season in Porto and his unbelievable physical attributes could see him overtake the homegrown favorite as the preferred choice. Either way, the club can't go wrong with these two.

Best transfer: Danilo. It's tempting to pick Lucas Vazquez, despite his average preseason, due to his skillset and creativity but I can't overlook what a coup Danilo was. Rightback is arguably the weakest position in the world in terms of elite talent and Real Madrid locked up the position for the next 8-10 years with the purchase of a physical specimen like Danilo. Hefty price or not, there's nothing wrong with having two world class players in a critical position in the modern game.

Worst transfer: The lack of a backup leftback. Perhaps I could've picked Denis Cheryshev, not because I dislike him but because of the logjam at the position, but not addressing Fabio Coentrao and the fact that he and this club just need to break up is a big oversight in my eyes. Between injuries and a seeming distrust of the player, Real Madrid had all summer to find a replacement and now it might have to rely on Alvaro Arbeloa or Nacho if Coentrao is unavailable. If Marcelo goes down I think this club is in big, big trouble.

Breakout player: A number of players could be picked here, but it's going to be Gareth Bale for me. I picked him for this "honor" last season and he let me down but I think he'll have the freedom he needs to wreck opposing defenses in Rafa Benitez's system of free-roaming, pressing attackers. He won't put up Cristiano Ronaldo numbers, but I think he'll be a bigger overall threat than he was last season.

Bold prediction: I've long felt that Real Madrid won't win another league as long as Leo Messi has a leg to stand on,  but my faith has grown recently. Real Madrid will win the league with at least three matches left in the season and will win the Copa del Rey. However, I think the Champions League will evade them.

Mike Platania

La Liga top 3 prediction: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla

La Liga bottom 3 prediction: Las Palmas, Granada, Getafe

Real Madrid top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid top assist man: Cristiano Ronaldo. He set a career-high in assists last season and at 30, Ronaldo seems to know polishing this part of his game will increase his longevity. I don't think it'd be by a wide margin, and I think we could see four players hit double-digit assists this season.

Most intriguing player/player to watch: Keylor Navas and Mateo Kovacic. Perhaps Iker Casillas deserved more fanfare on his way out, and perhaps De Gea ends up in Madrid this season. But Navas' ability to make acrobatic saves and lack of minor mistakes will be more apparent than some might expect. As for Kovacic, it'll be interesting to see how he's used. Will Benítez try to develop him into more of a two-way player? Will he be a Modrič-lite? How will he mesh with Kroos?

Youngster to watch: Casemiro. Chelsea fans affectionately call Mikel the "Human Full-Time Whistle" for how he brings the midfield to a complete standstill when he comes off the bench. Casemiro may be able to become the same thing for Madrid. It's not a glamorous role and it's mostly thankless, but Casemiro could be of big value.

Most interesting position battle: Pepe vs Raphaël Varane. There likely won't be a clear "winner" of this "battle" because Varane and Pepe have been happily splitting minutes the last few years, but the true winner will be the entire team. Varane really came on down the stretch last season, while the ink on Pepe's new contract hasn't even dried yet. Varane becoming a full-time starter is inevitable, it's a matter of whether Pepe can hold him off.

Best transfer: Loaning Marco Asensio to Espanyol. The addition of Danilo gives Real two of the most physically imposing right backs on the planet, but Asensio's ceiling is higher than any other youngster's, and he will get the minutes he needs at Espanyol.

Worst transfer: The indecision regarding Asier Illarramendi, mostly for humanitarian reasons. Illarra is in football purgatory: he's clearly not set to play a big role at Madrid, yet he's good enough to start elsewhere, but hasn't been activel shopped. Maybe Real aren't yet ready to punt on Illarra and move on, but Illarra's been tight-lipped and a professional through his struggles, and he deserves to know his future. I frankly feel bad for him.

Breakout player: James Rodríguez. An argument could be made he already broke out last season, but James could have a monster season. His marking and defensive contributions are often overlooked because of his dribbling and shooting ability. But there isn't much James can't do. I think 18 goals and 18 assists could be possible for James.

Bold prediction: Real Madrid do not concede a goal to Barcelona in any of this season's meetings. The space between Real's midfield and defense should be much less leaky this season, and Barça may have a very tough time creating space for their front three.

Andrejs Klisnans

La Liga Top 3 prediction: Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid

La Liga bottom 3 prediction: Las Palmas, Granada, Sporting de Gijón

Real Madrid top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo – no doubt about it. 26, 40, 46, 34, 31, 48 – only a superhuman can record such number of goals scored in the league year in year out. Expect the Portuguese forward to score a minimum of 30 goals.

Real Madrid top assist man: James Rodríguez. Having concluded an impressive first season with 13 assists in the league to his name, expect the Colombian to continue in fine form leading the team in assists. Even if his time on the pitch is reduced due to Isco’s form, the young winger will still make a huge impact whenever he is given the chance.

Most intriguing player/player to watch: Gareth Bale. Time is running out for the Welsh wizard to prove his worth to the sometimes-ungrateful Bernabéu fans. While his first year was filled with historic moments, Bale failed to make the impact which was expected of him in his second season. With Rafa Benítez and the support of the Bernabéu hierarchy, Bale’s influence will increase. It is now or never for the Welshman.

Youngster to watch: Mateo Kovačić. Only recently acquired, the Croatian youngster has already drawn attention. With Modrić and Kroos as indisputable starters, it will be interesting to see how the 21 year old can cope with the pressure to impress instantly. The culture of Real Madrid is not often one which is beneficial for youngsters. Still, with proper guidance and support, the youngster can provide much needed depth and may even be a star in years to come.

Most interesting position battle: Isco vs Bale vs James. Unless Benzema is dropped in favour of Ronaldo as the front man, Madrid coach Rafa will have only two places for Isco, Bale and James. Due to Bale’s price tag and potential, it is highly unlikely that he will be dropped. Still, with added pressure from the fans and some incredible early performances from Isco and James, it will be highly interesting to see which two men Rafa plays in his routine XI.

Best transfer: Mateo Kovačić. The Croatian has enormous potential. Enormous. Especially if the youngster can be groomed into a CM as Kroos or Modrić, he could be a key player for many years. He is a fantastic dribbler and passer, but must learn to defend better. Besides being a strong option off the bench, Kovačić has the skill to change a game all on his own. Already immense, and will only improve.

Worst transfer: Lucas Vázquez. The Spaniard may remind some fans of José Callejón, but he’s simply not as good. At least not yet. Early (and potentially meaningless) preseason performances have not been too impressive. Even with his pace and crossing ability, do not expect the ex-Castilla player to shine and provide too many quality performances.

Breakout player: Danilo. Undoubtedly, Dani Carvajal was Madrid’s better right back throughout the preseason. Nevertheless, with the Brazilian’s ‘glamour’ and potential, expect the new right back to get plenty of minutes. His stature, pace, superb ability to cross and even score suggest that with time, the Brazilian will indeed prove to be a valuable addition.

Bold prediction: CR7’s last season as Madrid’s main man and goalscorer. Even with incredible numbers, performances show that the Portuguese powerhouse is losing pace and is more focused on scoring goals rather than influencing team play. With players such as Bale, Isco and James looking to cement starting roles, expect this season to be the last where all of our hopes are placed on the already-legend Ronaldo.

Daniel Girela

La Liga top 3 prediction: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético de Madrid.

La Liga bottom 3 prediction: Éibar, Las Palmas, Levante.

Real Madrid top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid top assist man: James Rodríguez.

Most intriguing player/player to watch: Konoplyianka.

Youngster to watch: Kovacic.

Most interesting position battle: Arda Turan vs Iniesta.

Best transfer: De Gea to Real Madrid (hopefully!).

Worst transfer: Jackson Martínez to Atleti.

Breakout player: Gareth Bale.

Bold prediction: Real Madrid will concede less than 25 goals this season.

Lucas Navarette

La Liga top 3 prediction: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid.

La Liga bottom 3 prediction: Levante, Elche, Eibar.

Real Madrid top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid top assist man: James Rodríguez.

Most intriguing player/player to watch: Asensio at Espanyol.

Youngster to watch: Kovacic.

Most interesting position battle: James and Isco.

Best transfer: Danilo.

Worst transfer: Lucas Vázquez.

Breakout player: Gareth Bale.

Bold prediction: Benzema will score more than 30 goals in La Liga.