A rejuvenated Gareth Bale will be aiming to resurrect his Real Madrid under new boss Carlo Ancelotti

A rejuvenated Gareth Bale will be aiming to resurrect his Real Madrid under new boss Carlo Ancelotti


Real Madrid finished second in LaLiga last season, two points behind city rivals Atletico Madrid.

Los Blancos ultimately paid the price for a relatively slow start to 2020-21, with defeats to Cadiz, Valencia and Alaves in their first 10 games.

From December onwards, though, Real were imperious with a surprise home loss to Levante their only one for the remainder of the campaign.

In fact, they went 18 LaLiga matches unbeaten after that shock, a run which they have continued into the new season.

Real Madrid's Champions League group

Group D: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol

Read more: Champions League guide — Group D in focus

European history

Where to begin with Real in Europe? Well, their record-breaking 13 European Cup and Champions League titles is probably a good place to start.

The last of those wins came in 2018 as Gareth Bale’s stunning bicycle kick helped Zinedine Zidane’s side to a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Kyiv.

That was Real’s third consecutive success in Europe’s premier club competition, a feat not achieved since Bayern Munich pulled it off between 1974 and 1976.

It followed a 4-1 thrashing of Juventus in Cardiff and a penalty shootout win over Atleti in Milan — the second of two all-Madrid finals, with Real having won the other two years earlier in Lisbon.

Real Madrid narrowly missed out on winning LaLiga by two points last season
Real Madrid narrowly missed out on winning LaLiga by two points last season

Expectations

Real’s history in this competition means that there is always a certain degree of expectation.

Even though last season was not a vintage one by Los Blancos’ exceedingly high standards —  they did not lift a single trophy or reach a final for the first time since 2009-10 — they still made it to the last four of the Champions League.

They were beaten by eventual winners Chelsea too, so it was not a campaign which ended in any great shame.

New manager Carlo Ancelotti will want to announce his return to the club in style, though, and there can be no better way than bringing the famous old trophy back to what almost feels like its home.

He certainly has some fine talent at his disposal, with new signing David Alaba linking up with the likes of Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and a revitalised Bale.

They may even be joined by Kylian Mbappe by the end of the transfer window.

It is a make or break season for Eden Hazard after his struggles at Real Madrid in 2020-21
It is a make or break season for Eden Hazard after his struggles at Real Madrid in 2020-21

Star man: Karim Benzema

If you want to know how highly Real value their No9, you need not look any further than the release clause in his new contract. It is roughly £855 million.

The Frenchman, who returned from national team exile to score four goals at Euro 2020, is now in his 13th season at the Bernabeu.

Since joining from Lyon in 2009, he has racked up 281 strikes in 561 appearances across all competitions.

Now 33, Benzema will be looking for his fifth Champions League winners medal in 2021-22.

One of the most formidable hitmen in Europe, he scored six goals in last season’s edition — only Kylian Mbappe (eight) and Erling Haaland (10) finished with more.

Karim Benzema is set to terrorise defences once again in this season's Champions League
Karim Benzema is set to terrorise defences once again in this season's Champions League

One to watch: David Alaba

Alaba swapped the red of Bayern Munich for the white of Real this summer, signing a five-year deal reportedly worth over £10m a year.

The versatile Austrian — who captains his country — inherits the No4 shirt vacated by the legendary Sergio Ramos, who has moved on to Paris Saint-Germain.

Those are big boots to fill for Alaba but his ability to play across the defence or in midfield should make him indispensable for Ancelotti.

And the 29-year-old wasted no time in making an impact for his new side, setting up Vinicius Junior for Real’s fourth goal in a 4-1 opening-day win away to Alaves.

The boss: Carlo Ancelotti

Back at the Bernabeu having resigned after only 18 months in charge at Everton, Ancelotti is no stranger to glory with Real, who he guided to the first of their Champions League final triumphs over Atleti in 2014.

He also won the Copa del Rey that season, before adding the Super Cup and Club World Cup to the list of honours from his first spell in charge.

The 62-year-old Italian has won three Champions Leagues as a manager after lifting the trophy with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007.

In his playing days, Ancelotti twice tasted European Cup glory with Arrigo Sacchi’s great Milan side of the late 1980s.

All information correct as of 10am, September 2, 2021

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