La Liga 2013-2014 Previews: Real Madrid

Charlie Crowhurst

Jose Mourinho has left the Bernabéu after a tumultuous reign and the club has turned a page as they look to avoid a second straight season without a major trophy.

Real Madrid failed to win a major trophy last season, losing the league to their biggest rival Barcelona and the Copa del Rey to their city rival Atletico Madrid. By the close of the season the locker room was highly unsettled, seemingly split between pro-Mourinho and pro-Casillas factions.

Basically it wasn't a great year for Los Merengues and for them, that's unacceptable.

Mourinho is gone -- now with Chelsea -- and in comes the calming, experienced voice of Carlo Ancelotti who led Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title last season. His job is to smooth over the rough spots that appeared last season and get this talented team performing at a peak level.

Last season Real Madrid struggled to be successful on multiple fronts and essentially lost the league by Christmas., so finding consistency across all fronts will be an important goal for the new head coach.

Mesut Özil

If you're expecting Cristiano Ronaldo to show up here, sorry to disappoint you. We all know how good Ronaldo is and how important he is, but if you eliminate talking about him, the next name is terms of importance is Mesut Özil.

If Ronaldo is the flashy Lamborghini body of Madrid, the German international midfielder is the engine that made the car go. Because of Özil's skill and leadership in the middle of the attack, Ronaldo is able to roam and do the magical things he's capable of. Özil made the big passes, helps link the defense and the attack and scored some beautiful goals as well.

If you look back last season at the games where Real Madrid were really good, Özil was right in the middle of everything making plays, making passes, scoring goals, being super awesome.

Transfers In

Florentino Perez has begun an influx of young, Spanish players with the signing of Asier Illarramendi and Isco. Illarramendi will be looked to as a long term option for the defensive midfield, while Isco will likely supplant Angel Di Maria on the right wing.

Former Madrid youth and B-team player Daniel Carvajal returns from Bayer Leverkusen to challenge Alvaro Arebloa at right back.

The biggest transfer though for Madrid is the one that hasn't happened yet. Perez has spent the last month chasing Tottenham's Gareth Bale, a signing that doesn't really make tactical sense and has more to do with Perez's ego and the need to try and match Barca's addition of Neymar. If Bale finally does arrive, it will shake things up in the midfield but even if the deal fails, Madrid should be fine.

Transfers Out

Striker Gonzalo Higuaín was sold to Napoli, leaving Karim Benzema as the number one striker for Ancelotti. The move will also open up opportunities for youngsters Álvaro Morata and Jesé Rodríguez. It's not often a team will just sell off their second leading scorer but the move makes sense with the talent Madrid have in the pipeline. Plus when you have Cristiano Ronaldo scoring ridiculous amounts of goals, you can afford to sell a 20-goal per year guy.

Central defender Raúl Albiol became expendable with the emergence of Raphaël Varane and was sold to Napoli as well. Just to complete the hat trick, winger José María Callejón was also sold to Napoli. Aging defender Ricardo Carvalho was also released.

The signing of talented 20-year old Brazilian defensive midfielder Casemiro from Sāo Paulo allowed Madrid to send veteran midfielder Michael Essien on loan to Chelsea. Casemiro has been given plenty of minutes in the preseason and will likely push Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso for playing time.

Season Outlook

With the influence of Carlo Ancelotti and the cornucopia of talent on the roster, there's no reason to believe that Real Madrid won't rebound this season and win a trophy or two. Whether or not it's the 10th European Cup they so desperately covet remains to be seen, but they'll definitely challenge for the league and the Copa del Rey.

Predicting exactly how Madrid will play and look is still difficult with the Bale transfer still in limbo. If Bale doesn't arrive, look for Isco to play on the right wing, though he and Mesut Özil have been interchanging during the preseason. In fact Ancelotti has been experimenting with moving Ronaldo forward into a striker role in the preseason, so watch for that. With Isco being able to play out left, it makes sense as an option.

We're also waiting to see if Iker Casillas reclaims his starting stop from Diego Lopez in goal. It's the move everyone expects to happen but it certainly would be a story if Ancelotti sticks with Mourinho's decision to start Lopez last season.

No matter what happens with Bale or in goal, Ancelotti is well aware of the immense pressure he'll be under to generate immediate results and move on from the Mourinho-era which, right or wrong, left fans and the media divided and a bad taste in many people's mouths.

If Ancelotti gets them all clicking and playing up to their potential on a regular basis and if Varane develops in the world class center back he's shown signs of becoming, La Liga and Europe should be scared of the potential world destroying powers that Madrid possess.

We're talking Avengers-level awesomeness if things go right.

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