Season preview: Real Madrid

Season preview: Real Madrid
© AP Photos
Sports Mole assesses whether Real Madrid can reclaim the La Liga title next season.

It has been a summer of change at Real Madrid with Carlo Ancelotti replacing Jose Mourinho at the helm of the Spanish outfit.

A number of new signings have arrived, while Italian side Napoli raided the former La Liga champions for three players earlier in the summer.

Here, Sports Mole assesses whether Ancelotti can wrestle back the Spanish title from Barcelona this season.

In: Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad), Isco (Malaga), Daniel Carvajal (Bayer Leverkusen) Casemiro (Sao Paulo)

Out: Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Jose Callejon (Napoli), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Michael Essien (Chelsea), Pedro Leon (Getafe)

Last season: 2nd

Manager: Carlo Ancelotti

Three key players:

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Copa del Rey Final against Atletico Madrid on May 17, 2013© AP Photos
Cristiano Ronaldo: Despite suggestions that the possible arrival of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur could see the Portuguese depart Madrid this summer, it does seem extremely unlikely that he will not remain with the club for at least one more season. The forward, who has scored 201 goals in 199 games since arriving from Manchester United in 2009, will once more be the main man for Madrid next season. He managed JUST 34 league goals last season, but if he can match his total of 46 from the previous campaign, then it will go a long way to helping the club reclaim the title.

Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil celebrates a goal against Real Betis on April 20, 2013© AP Photos
Mesut Ozil: Despite a slow start to last season, the German international emerged - alongside Ronaldo - as one of their most important players in the latter stages of the season. He found the back of the net on nine occasions, while he registered 15 assists - a total that was only bettered by Barcelona's Andres Iniesta. The 24-year-old is expected to be given a free role for Ancelotti next season, but it will be interesting to see whether the former Werder Bremen midfielder can co-exist with summer recruit Isco in the same team.

Real Madrid player Raphael Varane during his team's match with Ajax on September 27, 2011© PA Photos
Raphael Varane: Without getting carried away, Varane is, without question, already one of the best centre-backs in world football. Standing at 6'3", you could be excused for thinking that the Frenchman lacked the odd yard of pace, which could not be further from the truth. Last season ended in disappointment due to injury, but the defender did make 33 appearances in total, with 15 of those coming in the league. It has got to the point with Varane where it is a big surprise if he is left out of the big games, which is some accolade at just 20 years of age.

First game: Real Betis (A) Aug 18 Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says: After losing Mourinho at the end of last season, Madrid needed a big-name manager to come into the club. Well, that was the case when Ancelotti swapped Paris Saint-Germain for the Spanish capital. The Italian has purchased well with the signings of Asier Illarramendi and Isco, while the club also took up the option to bring Daniel Carvajal back from Bayer Leverkusen, who is a fine defender. Of course, a Welshman in the shape of Bale could still arrive, which would add yet another dimension to their stunning attack. However, even without Bale, they will be confident of wrestling the title away from Barcelona in the new campaign. They were guilty of some lacklustre away performances last season - which ultimately cost them the title - but you just get the feeling that Ancelotti will right a few wrongs during his tenure.

Predicted finish: 1st

Real's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring during the match against Real Valladolid on May 4, 2013
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