In the last eight years, Real Madrid have won La Liga just once. Their less historically successful rivals Atletico Madrid have won Spain’s top domestic league more recently (three years ago). So can Zinedine Zidane begin to redress the balance by leading Real to La Liga glory in the 2016 – ’17 season?
Zidane is popular with the supporters, and guided Real to Champions League glory last season, so the Frenchman probably isn’t overly concerned about his future with the Spanish club right now. Nonetheless, the fans will feel La Liga triumph is well overdue – as will some of the players.
One domestic title in Spain over a seven-year-spell with the side isn’t a phenomenal return for the brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo. Whatever the Portuguese star’s posturing behaviour, the 31-year-old is clearly a man driven by his will to win.
Ronaldo isn’t Real’s only big name of course. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, along with the likes of Luka Modric and James Rodriguez all contribute to the cause. But between them last season in the league, Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema scored a total of 78 goals – and still finished (one point) behind Barcelona.
With an attack force comprised of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, Barca have just been that little bit sharper than Los Blancos. That trio scored 90 goals between them in La Liga in the most recent campaign, with Suarez himself bagging 40 goals.
If the 29-year-old can continue at that rate into the new season, it’s tough to see anyone stopping the Catalan club – and that’s without even factoring in Messi, widely regarded as the greatest player currently playing today, and Neymar, who is still just 24.
Inspirational (if underhand) manager Diego Simeone remains at the helm with Atletico, the club who won La Liga in 2014. Can the Argentine galvanise his side once again to take on the giants of Spanish football – and hold their own? Atletico were undefeated against Real in the League last season, even if they couldn’t keep Barca at bay (though it’s worth noting they bested Barca in the Champions League to reach the final).
In a three-horse race, Atletico are adjudged to be a long way short of the top two sides – yet they finished just three points shy of the winners in May. Could Simeone's side represent the biggest value in Spain this season?