The 2019-20 season of La Liga Santander is finally upon us. Real Madrid fans all over the world are eagerly and anxiously waiting to see their team step out on the pitch. The eagerness accounts for the inevitable gap of two and a half months that every football fan has to endure at the end of any season. International football, unless it’s a world cup, never really makes up for the rise in adrenaline, week in and week out.
The anxiousness, however, is not something desired by anyone. Yet, Real Madrid fans find themselves almost trembling with it because of the state their team is in. Since starting their pre-season training, seven Real Madrid players have suffered injuries, ranging from the minor knock of Sergio Ramos to the raptured ACL of Marco Asensio. Eden Hazard has been struck with a huge blow now as he will have to wait at least three weeks before he can make his official Real Madrid debut. An unimaginable number of injuries, not being able to sign the one player who the manager wanted above all, a defence as fragile as ever, and no clear strategy, are only a few things that make the Real Madrid fans anxious when they take on Celta Vigo at the Balaidos on Matchday 1 of La Liga 2019-20.
Real Madrid have announced a 22-man squad for their trip to Vigo but Carvajal will have to sit out as all the confusion regarding his suspension was finally cleared. James Rodriguez will be part of a Real Madrid squad for the first time since the Champions League final at Cardiff in 2017. Bale and Brahim were called up too while Mariano misses out. Real Madrid will also miss marquee signing Eden Hazard as he picked up a hamstring injury just a day before Matchday 1. Here’s the full squad:
Keylor Navas, Courtois, Altube; Carvajal, Militão, Sergio Ramos, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo, Odriozola, Kroos, Modric, Casemiro, Valverde, James and Isco; Benzema, Bale, Lucas Vázquez, Jović, Brahim and Vinicius Jr.
What to Expect from Celta
Celta Vigo have not finished in the top half of La Liga in the last three seasons. In 2018/19, they were placed 17th as they narrowly escaped relegation. Fran Escriba took charge from Miguel Cardoso in March. Celta have been very active in the transfer market as well. Two of their most notable reinforcements are Denis Suarez from Barcelona and Santi Mina from Valencia. They will certainly make Celta a much more formidable side as they join the prolific Iago Aspas, who scored 20 goals in 27 games last season. Gran Escriba usually deploys a 4-4-2 formation. Suarez and Mina will obviously bolster this as the former Barcelona man can be a key figure in the middle of the pitch while Mina can play on both wings and upfront.
What to Expect from Real Madrid
Zidane used the 3-5-2 formation for the last two friendly games and he might stick to it against Celta as well. Carvajal and Hazard’s absence may open the door for Odriozola and Jovic but the Serbian striker has not impressed Zidane during the pre-season. Zidane used two variations of a the 3-5-2 in the friendly games, but he is more likely to stick to the classical version of it. The trio of Casemiro, Kroos, and Modric should start with Marcelo and Odriozola on the wings. Militao, Ramos and Varane would be the best picks for the three centre-backs while Benzema and Jovic might lead the attack.
Players to Watch
Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo
The Spanish international was one of the reasons why Celta avoided relegation last season. He scored 20 goals in 27 matches last season and was an influential presence on the pitch for Saturday’s home side. Real Madrid must keep an eye on him if they want a positive result out of this game.
Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
Benzema has been the most consistent performer of the Real Madrid team in the post Cristiano Ronaldo era. He is Zidane’s most trusted ally and an undisputed starter in any scheme or formation. Benzema was the team’s top scorer last season and also his performance was one of the few positives Real Madrid had during the pre-season.
Celta Vigo: L L W W W (most recent first)
Real Madrid: D W W L L (most recent first)
Head to Head
Real Madrid have a clear upper hand in the head-to-head stats against Celta in the last five games. Madrid are unbeaten against them in the last 5 games with 4 wins and 1 draw. Real Madrid scored 18 goals in these 5 games with the 6-0 win at the Bernabeu in May, 2018 being their biggest against Celta in recent times. Gareth Bale scored a brace in that game.
Celta Vigo (4-4-2): Blanco; Mallo, Cabral, Araujo, Olaza; Okay Yokuslu, Suarez, Fran Beltrán, Sisto; Mina, Aspas.
Real Madrid (3-5-2): Courtois; Varane, Ramos, Militao; Odriozola, Modric, Caermiro, Kroos, Marcelo; Jovic, Benzema.
Where to Watch
Spain: Movistar La Liga
France: beIN Sports 1
Indonesia: beIN Sports 1
USA: beIN SPORTS
The game will start at the Balaidos on 17:00 (CEST), Saturday, August 17.