There is no doubt that this season will be an intriguing one under new boss Rafael Benitez.
Carlo Ancelotti failed to satisfy the hard to please Real Madrid hierarchy during his second season at the club and despite winning the historic La Decima in his first year in charge, he was deemed surplus to requirements at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Benitez will offer a more structured team than his predecessor but will also enable build his team around a few individuals that may have been somewhat neglected under Ancelotti.
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Apply to become a GMS writer by signing up and submitting a 250 word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay5
Article continues below
Perhaps surprisingly for Real Madrid most of the speculation this summer has been about player leaving, rather than players arriving at the Bernabeu.
With iconic captain Iker Casillas already departing the club, many predicted an upheaval by the incoming Spanish boss.
Article continues below
Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale have all been linked with moves to the Premier League, but have failed to materialise, with Ramos securing himself a new contract to keep him at the club until 2020.
Madrid have already secured a deal for Danilo from Porto and have recently agreed the signing of Mateo Kovacic from Inter Milan.
The Croatian is a fantastic player with great potential, but a midfielder who had yet to really cement himself in Serie A. Kovacic will act as possibly as a back-up for Toni Kroos and compatriot Luka Modric, but has similar traits to those players.
The former Inter man has a good eye for a pass, a good tackler and a strong work ethic, something that clearly impresses Benitez.
Danilo has a potential to be one of the world’s top right-backs in the next couple of years, but his attacking playing style may be curbed back under his new boss who prefers his full-backs to rarely push on.
Finally the ongoing saga with Manchester United and David De Gea appears to be coming to some sort of conclusion. The Spaniard has been linked to Madrid all summer with Benitez reportedly desperate to sign the Old Trafford number one.
Benitez could send Keylor Navas in the other direction as a sweetener in the deal, as the Costa Rican is unlikely to want to play second fiddle to De Gea.
What to expect this season
Benitez returns to Spain for the first time in over a decade where he won the title with Valencia, before moving to Liverpool. The Spaniard has not won a league championship since his time at the Mestalla.
Last season Madrid lacked any sort of tactical discipline with a number of players simply given a free role under Ancelotti. It was against the bigger opponents where they struggled, where teams simply exposed their poor discipline.
There has been much speculation surrounding the tactics that Benitez will employ. It is widely expected that the new manager has been told by the Madrid hierarchy to build a team around Bale and deploy him in the number 10 position.
The Welshman suffered a disappointing season last term and received some harsh criticism from the fans. Bale is expected to play behind the striker, which appears to be Benzema at the moment, but Cristiano Ronaldo has been played in that position in a few matches in pre-season.
Under Benitez everyone is expected to work harder without the ball, and the striker often acts as the first line of defence, something Ronaldo is said not to be keen on doing.
Madrid scored 118 goals last season, more than any other side, but also conceded 36 goals, 17 more than Barcelona.
If Los Blancos want to win any silverware this season, Benitez must find the balance of maintaining their attacking prowess, yet also making them more solid at the back.
The new manager has always kept to a similar formation throughout his career with a 4-2-3-1. Perhaps one of the most important aspects for Benitez is to have two capable holding midfielders, something Madrid lack.
With Sami Khedira leaving to Juventus and with Illarramendi expected to move to Liverpool, Madrid look short in that position.
Although Modric, Kroos and Kovacic are expected to play in that role, they are all much better at looking forward, than seeing that is happening defensively around them.
I believe Real Madrid will once again struggle to compete against Barcelona once again this season. Benitez has arguably a weaker squad than that of his predecessor and does not have the right players to implement the playstyle he wants to stamp on the club.
If reports are to be believed then Benitez has little choice to play Bale behind the striker, in a position he has not simply earned yet.
Verdict: Runner up in Spanish Cup, third in La Liga and semi-finals of the Champions League.