Having lifted the Champions League trophy in the 2015/16 season and finished a solitary point behind La Liga champions Barcelona, the expectation will be at an all-time high for this history-making Real Madrid outfit.
They face a tricky assignment first up in Spanish football’s top flight on Sunday when they travel to a Real Sociedad side for whom over-achievement remains the watch word. The Royals can also call upon a rather handy home record against the Galácticos, so this clash is shaping up to be a rather intriguing battle.
Sociedad once again exceeded expectations last term; despite losing more matches than they won, they still managed to secure a coveted top half finish. Bizarrely, they were better away from home than they were on their own patch; at their Anoeta Stadium home they lost as many games as they won (seven), with a goal difference of just +2.
Real Madrid’s achievements in 2015/16 require little introduction of course, but drilling a bit deeper into life on the road for Zinedine Zidane’s side, note that they scored at a rate of 2.11 goals per away game and conceded just 0.95, collecting 41 points from a possible 57 in the process.
Their away points tally almost doubled that of Sociedad’s at home and so any doubts about their aptitude for away days can be all but forgotten. Historically, Sociedad have a respectable record against their more illustrious opponents, winning 22% of their clashes (9 of 41), which given the Madrid side’s dominance of most in Spain is commendable.
But what is more interesting to smart punters is what has been the norm in recent times: Los Blancos have triumphed in 15 of their last 19 dates. These haven’t just been any old wins either, with scorelines of 4-1, 3-1, 4-0 and 5-1 all recorded in the last three seasons.
But – and here is the pertinent piece for bettors to take away – Sociedad’s record at home against the Galácticos isn’t bad at all. A 0-4 anomaly aside, their last four encounters at the Anoeta have yielded two 0-1 wins for Madrid, a 3-3 draw and a 4-2 victory for the underdogs. Write them off at your peril.
With Cristiano Ronaldo out, it's important you know which players are worth noting when the two squads step on the pitch. The Royals’ chief tormentor last season, Ronaldo looks set to miss this game as he continues to recover from the knee injury he suffered in the Euro 2016 final. The Portuguese ace scored twice and missed a penalty in his side’s 3-1 win over Sociedad last season.
And while the early form of Marco Asensio, who netted in Real’s 2-0 Super Cup win over Sevilla, will dampen Galáctico concerns, it is fair to say that Eusebio Sacristan and his men will be breathing a sigh of deep relief at CR7’s absence. It has been a remarkably quiet transfer window by Real Madrid’s standards, coincidentally:
Perhaps Florentino Perez is finally happy with his squad after Champions League glory last season? Either way, Alvaro Morata has returned to the Bernabeu after an Italian sojourn with Juventus, with the only major outgoing being Jesé Rodriguez, who has said au revoir as he joins the Parisian revolution at PSG.
A net transfer spend of £3 million for the Galácticos? They must be very confident in the personnel at their disposal. Sociedad have opted for consolidation, rather than splashing the cash this summer, with Geronimo Rulli, Willian Jose and Juanmi coming into the squad to replace the departed Alfred Finnbogason and Jonathas.
Perhaps most crucially, they have been able to hang on to last season’s key performers such as Inigo Martinez, Asier Illarramendi and Carlos Vela, who were all being watched by the eagle-eyed scouts of more prestigious outfits. That trio will feel like new signings as a result.
Many punters will plump straight away for the 5/7 offered for a Real Madrid victory and, while that appears to be good value at first glance, a reminder of their largely indifferent return form at the Anoeta Stadium is timely. So is there a more lucrative market to consider other than the outright?
Those with a nose for value will require little persuasion in the logic behind a +1 Asian Handicap wager in Sociedad’s favour; a market that would have yielded a return in seven of the last ten encounters between these two sides. At 10/11 with NetBet, it looks a fantastic investment.
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