Having seen its La Liga title hopes unable to recover from poor starts the past two seasons, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is determined for his side to make a winning start to the campaign at Real Sociedad on Sunday. While Madrid has won two of the last three Champions League titles, it has not tasted domestic league glory for five seasons. And for the past two campaigns it has put itself into costly early deficits against eventual champion Barcelona.
“We all know that this is going to be a difficult year, a year where we will have to fight, and we are all ready to give it our best shot,” Zidane said ahead of his side’s trip to San Sebastián.
“We have to start well and be strong. We know that the start of the season is complicated. We have a difficult game ahead of us in San Sebastián and it is important to make a good start in La Liga.”
Zidane has insisted that Real Madrid is raring to go for the start of the season, yet it has not been the smoothest of summers for the European champion. As well as players joining up late with the squad due to their involvement at Euro 2016, key figures have also been hobbled by injury.
Indeed, Real Madrid will be without five players for Sunday’s opener, with the suspended Luka Modric joining the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Pepe and Keylor Navas on the sidelines. Those absentees have only drawn further attention to what has been an unusually quiet summer for Madrid in the transfer market.
Only Alvaro Morata, who looks set to start up front in place of Benzema at the Anoeta, has arrived, having been bought back from Juventus. Meanwhile, Real Madrid lost out on the signing of Paul Pogba to Manchester United. Zidane, though, continues to stress that he is satisfied with the players at his disposal.
“If no players leave then no new ones can come in, it's impossible,” he said. “The important thing is that I'm happy with this squad. It will be hard to choose my team but as I say, I'm happy with the squad. I am pleased with the players, we have a good team and we need to go out and show that every single time. It's going to be a challenging year.”
Madrid’s first opponent of the season has been only slightly more active in the summer transfer window. Real Sociedad has brought in two forwards, Brazilian Willian José and Juanmi from Southampton, as well as getting goalkeeper Gerónimo Rullii back on loan after selling him to Manchester City.
The club will be after a more stable campaign this time around after last season saw the departure of David Moyes following a poor start to the campaign. Former Barcelona B coach Eusebio came in to lead the club to an respectable ninth position in La Liga and, like Zidane, is now embarking on his first full season in charge. And he thinks that the first game could be a good time to be meeting Real Madrid.
“Some of their players have only recently returned and haven't had the chance to complete a full preseason yet — that could affect performance levels, but they'll be there in the coming weeks,” he told Spanish sports daily AS. “It's a good time for us to meet them, and we plan to give them a demanding game.”
Kickoff Time: 2.15 p.m. EDT
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