Real Madrid will travel to Sporting Gijon in their opening fixture of the 2015-16 La Liga season. Rafael Benitez’s side enjoyed an impressive pre-season, losing just one clash with Bayern Munich – although Real were without the influential Cristiano Ronaldo. The Whites are looking to challenge Barcelona this season for the Spanish title and Benitez’s new-look side will be quietly confident of success this campaign.
Los Blancos haven’t lifted the La Liga crown since the 2011-12 season but that record will make success this year all the more sweeter. With the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez firing on all cylinders, Real will be up for the fight and will seriously challenge their fierce rivals this term.
A look at the opposition
Sporting Gijon were promoted from Spain’s second tier last season after finishing runners up to Real Betis. Sporting play their home matches at El Molinón, which has a maximum capacity of 30,000 people. Managed by Abelardo Fernández, Real should expect Sporting to line-up defensively as they bid to frustrate the visitors.
Sporting will be more than happy with a point and could line up with five across the midfield to combat Real’s attacking midfielders. The hosts are one of the leading candidates for relegation this term and will be looking to scrape survival in an incredibly competitive league.
A look at Real Madrid
Karim Benzema and Pepe are expected to miss out through injury but there could be a return for 2014 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo. The Portugal star scored a staggering 66 goals in 58 appearances for both club and country last season – an incredible feat – and will be looking to play another huge role for Los Blancos throughout the campaign.
If Real, who are currently priced at 13/8 with Coral to lift the La Liga trophy, are seriously about their title aspirations, Ronaldo’s goals will be crucial but they will rely on Benzema, Bale and Rodriguez to contribute in attack as well. Bale had his critics last season but is more than capable of regaining his previous form, while Benzema will continue to be a huge threat if he remains at the Santiago Bernabeu this term.
While this may look an easy victory on paper, it will be anything but a walk in the park for Real Madrid. On their return to Spain’s top flight, Sporting will be keen to frustrate Los Blancos and Benitez’s side must remain patient if they are to break the underdogs down. However, the visitors should have too much class and may win this one by a couple of goals. 2-0 Real.