La Romareda, Zaragoza
August 28, 2011, 18:45 GMT


After a decent pre-season, Real Madrid start the 2011-12 La Liga season at La Romareda, as they take on Real Zaragoza. The  The players have finally called off their strike, thanks to the intense negotiations and fans can heave a sigh of relief at the positive turn of events. But, the economic crisis in Spanish football remains the same and it is upto the Spanish association to pull up its socks and ensure that the clubs function in a stable way financially, otherwise such situations will keep arising.

On the football front, Real Madrid have had an eventful pre-season. After touring the world from America to Europe to China, they put up a brave show against the Catalans in the Spanish SuperCup but could not defeat them inspite of creating numerous chances. Jose Mourinho needs to look at this area, as Real Madrid need to be more clinical in front of goal and take their chances so that they can finish off matches in style. The Spanish SuperCup did have its fair share of controversies and fights, as is the norm in a Clasico, with both teams fighting hard on the field, as well as off the field. Mourinho is sure to have lost in Catalunya, if any, after his eye gouge on Barcelona’s assistant coach, Tito Vilanova. It was an act despised by everyone, including the Madridistas and amidst rumors of Mourinho, quitting his job, he released a statement, apologizing for his actions and assuring the fans that he is here to stay.

Real Zaragoza survived relegation on the last day in the previous season thanks to their coach, Javier Aguirre, who took over from Jose Aurelio Gay in mid-season. Real Zaragoza have made some moves in the transfer market but its no secret that Zaragoza are deep in debt and it remains to be seen, how the club authorities try to get themselves out of this terrible financial mess.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Real Madrid

There have been various news reports floating around regarding the resting of Iker Casillas in the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy with media claiming that he was punished for making phone calls to Xavi and Puyol for reconcilation after the differences, which arose in the volatile SuperCup. The authenticity of such rumors is in doubt and Iker Casillas would be ready to take up his position as the #1 under the sticks. The defense would hardly be surprising as Pepe, Carvalho, Ramos and Marcelo would be starting.

Marcelo earned a red card for his scissor-chop tackle on Fabregas but the bans in SuperCup are not extented to the league and therefore is eligible to feature against Zaragoza.

Khedira and Alonso are the default starters in midfield while Ronaldo, Ozil and Di Maria would occupy the attacking positions. Higuain was the primary strker for the Los Blancos at this point of time last season but Karim Benzema has been extra ordinary so far this season. His finishing and off the ball movement has improved by leaps and bounds and its safe to assume that he would the primary striker in Jose Mourinho’s plan for the season.

Nuri Sahin is still injured and there remains concerns about his fitness and hence could be sidelined. Kaka has been below average in pre-season and hence could remain on the bench. Coentrao and Callejon are expected to come off the bench with the third substitute being either Kaka or Higuain.

Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1):  Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Xabi Alonso, Khedira; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema

football formations

Real Zaragoza

Javier Aguirre’s team has been active in the transfer season with Zaragoza signing many young players including David Mateos and Juan Carlos from Real Madrid. Last season, Zaragoza shocked Real Madrid 2-3 at Santiago Bernabeu with Lafita, Uche and Gabi inspiring them to a deserving victory. But , the talented Gabi has moved to Atletico Madrid in search of greener pastures.

Roberto Jiménez has joined from Benfica and would be the player guarding the sticks for Zaragoza. Another interesting addition has been the striker, Pablo Edson Barrera, from West Ham but could remain on the bench. David Mateos is expected to start in a defense featuring Juarez, Lanzaro and Paredes. Juarez is also  new to the club, who has been signed from Celtic, to bolster the defense.

Zaragoza is expected to be defensive in its approach and hence a 4-3-2-1 looks a more likely formation for Javier Aguirre’s side.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-2-1): Jiménez; Juarez, Lanzaro, Mateos, Paredes; Ponzio, Pinter, Juan Carlos; Perez, Lafita; Uche

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

More goals in store?

The French striker has been in sublime form in pre-season and Mourinho would be expecting him to continue his goal scoring spree against a weaker opponent.

Lafita (Real Zaragoza)

Lafita was a terrific player for Zaragoza last season. His partnership with Gabi was responsible for Zaragoza’s fight back last year and it was he who inspired them to victory last year against Los Blancos. If he can repeat the same feat this year, it would be a dream start of the season for Real Zaragoza.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Real Zaragoza 0 – 4 Real Madrid

It looks unlikely that Zaragoza will score against this mighty in-form Mourinho squad while their newly assembled defensive force would be severely tested against the prowess of Madrid’s offense.