Real Madrid’s first road trip of the new La Liga campaign takes them to the Power Horse Stadium to meet minnows Almeria on Saturday.
Rayo Vallecano made Los Rojiblancos pay for over-zealous challenges inside their penalty area, slotting home two first-half spot-kicks to beat Vicente Moreno’s side 2-0 on the opening weekend.
Losing on his touchline debut in front of the home fans wasn’t on Moreno’s bucket list. But the ex-Espanyol coach can put it down to Almeria’s traditionally sluggish top-flight starts.
The Andalusian minnows have opened their last six La Liga campaigns without a day-one triumph (D3, L3), while they had to wait until matchday three to get into the win column in 2022/23.
Madrid’s upcoming visit to the Power Horse Stadium oughts to give Almeria a sense of deja vu, with Carlo Ancelotti’s team getting their bid to dethrone Barcelona off to a flying start.
First-half goals from Rodrygo and marquee summer signing Jude Bellingham inspired Karim Benzema-less Los Merengues to a 2-0 victory at Athletic Bilbao last weekend.
Despite missing out on Kylian Mbappe’s signature for the second summer running, our 2023/24 La Liga preview sticks with the record-time Spanish champions as the top candidates to conquer the league this season.
However, Madrid must weather an early storm caused by injuries to several indispensable first-team stars, including Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao, to tighten their stranglehold on the division.
The arrivals of goalkeeper Luis Maximiano, centre-forward Ibrahima Kone, and ex-Madrid youngster Sergio Arribas are designed to help Almeria uphold an outstanding home record from last season.
Los Rojiblancos finished one point clear of 18th-placed Valladolid on their La Liga return in 2022/23, mainly thanks to a respectable 68% unbeaten ratio on home turf (W10, D3, L6).
It’s even more impressive Almeria did not lose back-to-back home league outings last term, though Madrid were among the sides to have taken three points away from Power Horse Stadium.
A 2-1 loss in this corresponding match-up at the start of last season marked Almeria’s fourth defeat in seven top-flight meetings with Los Blancos at home (W1, D2).
While they’ve yet to replace Militao amid speculation linking AC Milan’s Malick Thiaw with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid have signed Kepa Arrizabalaga to take Courtois’ place between the sticks.
Kepa’s second La Liga debut is supposed to strengthen the visitors’ quest to register consecutive league clean sheets away from home for the first time since early March.
Following three straight top-flight defeats on the road, Ancelotti’s men have strung together two identical 2-0 wins in a row after breaking the deadlock within the opening half an hour.
A dominant run of three successive league wins at Almeria via a combined score of 11-2 puts Madrid in pole position to maintain their travel resurgence.
Without last season’s standout striker El Bilal Toure, who left Spain to join Atalanta this summer, Almeria’s scoring prospects look bleak, especially as Leo Baptistao has yet to recover from a long-term Achilles injury.
In addition to Courtois and Militao, Madrid supporters will have to wait a while longer to see Arda Guler in action, with Ferland Mendy and Dani Ceballos keeping the prodigious forward company in the treatment room.
Almeria potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Diego Marino; Marc Pubill, Edgar Gonzalez, Srdjan Babic, Sergio Akieme; Lucas Robertone, Iddrisu Baba; Sergio Arribas, Largie Ramazani, Adri Embarba; Luis Suarez.
Real Madrid potential starting line-up:
(4-3-1-2): Kepa Arrizabalaga; Dani Carvajal, Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba, Fran Garcia; Federico Valverde, Aurelien Tchouameni, Toni Kroos; Jude Bellingham; Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo.
We Say: Almeria 0-2 Real Madrid
A 2-0 scoreline decided both of these teams’ opening-day matches.
With Almeria’s lack of firepower and Madrid’s rock-solid defensive display at San Mames, we can envisage a repeat of Los Blancos’ curtain-raising triumph at Bilbao.
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