Reigning champions Real Madrid will begin the defence of their La Liga title against newly-promoted club UD Almeria on Sunday night.

Real Madrid will travel to the Power Horse Stadium this Sunday as they gear up to lock horns with newly-promoted side UD Almeria in their first game of the 2022/23 La Liga season.

Real Madrid cruised through to lift the La Liga title last season, led by the brilliance of Karim Benzema. Having finished well clear of rivals Barcelona, Los Blancos will now be aiming to start their title defence on a winning note. Carlo Ancelotti led his team to the UEFA Super Cup triumph earlier this week as they beat Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt for the trophy and will look to build on that victory.

Almeria are back in the top flight for the first time since 2015 after they won La Liga 2, edging out runners-up Real Valladolid on goal difference. Umar Sadiq was the standout performer for the Andalusians last term, bagging 18 goals. Manager Rubi has done well to build a cohesive unit, but facing up against the champions in the opening gameweek could be a mountain too steep for the La Liga newcomers.

The last time Real Madrid and Almeria faced each other was in 2015 when Los Blancos won 3-0. Another similar outcome could be on the cards on Sunday as the two teams prepare to battle it out for three points.

Team News & Tactics

UD Almeria

Heading into the game against the reigning champions, Almeria will have to make do without the services of defenders Juanjo Nieto and Ivan Martos. Apart from that, manager Rubi does not have any other major concerns to deal with as he prepares his team for one of their biggest challenges of the season, which comes as early as Matchday one.

The home team could line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Real Madrid on Sunday night, with Fernando Martinezlikely to get the nod between the sticks ahead of Fernando Pacheco.

Another new arrival, Alejandro Pozo, should slot in at right-back, while Sergio Akieme should feature on the opposite side. Rodrigo Ely and Srdjan Babic, who is also a new signing, are likely to form the centre-back pairing for the newly-promoted side. They will have the unenviable task of keeping Karim Benzema quiet.

Moving into the centre of the park, 21-year-old prospect Samu Costa will form the midfield double pivot alongside club captain Cesar de la Hoz. Rubi can call upon other options such as ex-Manchester United prospects Martin Svidersky and Arnau Puigmal, if needed, to shore up his midfield. Lucas Robertone should occupy the No. 10 role, although he will likely play deeper to help the other midfielders.

Veteran winger Francisco Portillo will carry an attacking threat from the right flank, while another former Manchester United youngster, Largie Ramazani, should occupy the left wing. Having scored nine goals last season, he will look to carry on from where he left off. Umar Sadiq was Almeria’s key player in their promotion-winning season and will lead the line against Real Madrid.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Pozo, Ely, Babic, Akieme; Costa, de la Hoz; Portillo, Robertone, Ramazani; Sadiq

Real Madrid

Real Madrid will miss the services of Rodrygo Goes, who has been ruled out due to muscular discomfort, while veteran right-back Dani Carvajal has also not been picked by Carlo Ancelotti in the squad as the club want to give him sufficient time to recover from his ankle injury.

The manager has stressed that he will rotate his troops more regularly this term than last season, and we could see some changes made to the lineup that started in the midweek UEFA Super Cup clash. Thibaut Courtois will remain a permanent fixture in goal for the current Spanish and European champions, as usual.

With no Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez should get the nod at right-back, while David Alaba could find himself slotting in at left-back to make room for new signing Antonio Rudiger to start at the heart of the Real Madrid defence against Almeria. The German international ought to pair up with Eder Militao.

Casemiro was one of the standout performers for Real Madrid against Eintracht Frankfurt earlier in the week and should feature from kickoff yet again. It would mean that Aurelien Tchouameni will likely make his La Liga debut from the bench. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos should hold on to their places in the lineup, with Eduardo Camavinga also likely to be amongst the substitutes.

The attacking trident of Federico Valverde, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior should be retained by Ancelotti on Sunday, with Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio providing options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Rudiger, Alaba; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have won each of their last two away La Liga games against Almeria, scoring nine goals in the process.
  • Almeria have won just one of their 12 matches against Real Madrid in La Liga (D2 L9). They have let in more goals against Los Blancos than against any other team in the competition (38).
  • Real Madrid have won just one of their last four La Liga games, drawing the previous two.
  • Almeria have failed to win their last five La Liga games (D1 L4), letting in at least two goals in each of those matches.
  • Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema has been involved in nine goals in seven games against Almeria in La Liga. He has also scored the Merengues’ first goal in four of the last nine La Liga seasons (2014, 2015, 2020 and 2021).

Player to Watch

Vinicius Junior

After enjoying a stunning 2021/22 season, during which he scored 22 goals and set up 20 more in all competitions, that included the match-winning goal in the UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool, Vinicius Junior has started the new campaign on a strong note, with a dazzling display in the Super Cup triumph against Eintracht Frankfurt.

It is clear that Vinicius’ confidence has grown a great deal over the past year, which has helped him flourish. Having taken his game up a notch in the last season, the Brazilian will be hoping to repeat his heroics this season and help Real Madrid retain their title, starting with a match-winning display against Almeria.

Prediction

UD Almeria 0-3 Real Madrid

It will be the clash of the champions of the Spanish first and second divisions on Sunday as Real Madrid travel to Andalusia to battle UD Almeria on Sunday. The hosts are back in La Liga after seven years and will be eager to make a positive impact on their return in front of their supporters.

However, Real Madrid have levelled up under Carlo Ancelotti, winning as many as four trophies in 2022, with the latest coming in the form of the UEFA Super Cup triumph earlier this week. Karim Benzema is off to a goalscoring start, and Vinicius Junior was also lively in the midweek clash against Eintracht Frankfurt. So fans can expect another clinical display from the reigning champions of Spain to begin their title defence with a win.

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