In their first match upon their return to La Liga this season, newly-promoted Almeria will face a baptism by fire when they host defending champions Real Madrid at the Power Horse Stadium in Almeria in the opening gameweek. While Almeria finished on top of the standings in the second division to book their way back to the top flight of Spanish football in style, Real Madrid became champions of Spain and Europe after an enthralling season.
While Almeria have been trying to get their necks above the water with fourth-place finishes in the second division in 2019-20 and 2020-21 followed by getting knocked out of promotion playoffs, they did take the campaign by the scruff of its neck last season and nobody could deny their top spot in the Segunda Division.
Under head coach Rubi, the side ended up gathering 81 points in the 2021-22 Segunda Division to finish on top of the table. They only managed to pip Real Valladolid to the top spot on the basis of goal difference and were just one point clear of Eibar in what was a fascinating and closely-fought promotion race last season.
La Union haven’t seen much exposure to the Spanish top flight lately after spending the last seven seasons in the doldrums of the Segunda Division. They even ended up flirting dangerously close to the relegation spots of the second division on a couple of occasions. However, they have managed to get their act right to secure the coveted promotion that they desired so much. Almeria will now find themselves gearing up to face their first La Liga weekend for the first time since they finished 19th in 2014-15 in Spain’s top flight.
Almeria have certainly invested in a lot of players under their new ownership and are looking like an exciting and promising sporting project built around several talented youngster. The additions of Kaiky, Fernando Pacheco, Houboulang Mendes and Alejandro Pozo offers a fine blend of youth and experience to their squad. They have also won three of their five pre-season friendlies and seem to be in a strong mood heading into the new campaign.
Real Madrid’s quest for continued and sustained dominance has already begun even in the early stretches of the season. Los Blancos ended up placing another European trophy to their cabinet after dispatching Eintracht Frankfurt in a 2-0 victory to win the UEFA Super Cup battle at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki.
David Alaba got on the scoresheet along with the usual suspect Karim Benzema who already looks like the deserving candidate for the Ballon d’Or later this year since the nominations got announced. The two goals were enough to see off any possible threat from the Europa League holders. Carlo Ancelotti’s side will now be gearing up to launch their offensive on all fronts and it goes without saying that defending their La Liga and Champions League titles will be high on their priority list.
The defending champions would be foolish to not expect a strong La Liga showdown given how Barcelona have added new armoury to their squad and are already looking like competitive title candidates. Despite missing out on the sensational signing of Kylian Mbappe, the 35-time champions of Spain will feel pretty confident about their chances of winning the title for the 36th time by the end of the season.
They did sign promising French midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni for nearly 100 million euros while Antonio Rudiger arrived on a free from Chelsea after his contract expired. The visitors were guilty of losing steam in La Liga after winning just one of their final five matches in La Liga last season. Although, to their credit, they had already wrapped up the title by then and could afford to rest and rotate key players in order to focus on their Champions League campaign which clearly brought successful results.
Real Madrid have also won each of their last five matches against Almeria and have also scored three goals against them on every single occasion.
ALM vs RMA, La Liga 2022/23
Date: 15th August, 2022
Time: 1:30 AM IST
Venue: Power Horse Stadium, Almeria
Almeria pre-season form:
Real Madrid form (all competitions):
Almeria wins: 1
Real Madrid wins: 9
Almeria Team News:
Almeria will miss the services of right-back Juanjo Nieto and centre-back Ivan Martos heading into the opening weekend. Both the defenders are still recovering after suffering crucial ligament injuries.
Meanwhile, the participation of midfielder Arnau Puigmal is also in doubt as he is said to be carrying a muscular discomfort. However, at the centre of the headlines surrounding the Almeria camp is star striker Umar Sadiq, who scored 18 goals and registered 12 assists in the Segunda Division last season.
The Nigerian international has attracted interested from plenty of clubs and word from the club is that he will be allowed to leave if the right offer comes in. Villarreal are said to be leading the race for his signature. However, Rubi has confirmed that Sadiq should be starting the clash against the defending champions this weekend
Real Madrid Team News:
Real Madrid have little in the way of injury concerns as head coach Carlo Ancelotti will be able to count on almost all his players once again to begin their 2022/23 La Liga title defence. Reinier Jesus and Rodrygo remain the only two absentees for Los Blancos.
While new signings Antonio Rudiger and Aurelien Tchouameni were absent from the starting XI against Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Super Cup, Ancelotti may end up considering a change or two given that his side won’t be facing the sternest test of the season on the first game weekend.
Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal would probably drop out of the playing XI if that is the case, while Federico Valverde should continue on the right in Rodrygo’s absence.
Almeria possible starting lineup:
Fernando; Pozo, Ely, Babic, Akieme; De la Hoz, Costa, Robertone; Portillo, Sadiq, Ramazani
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
If they manage to hold on to Umar Sadiq as they prepare for the champions’ visit, Almeria may offer some threat on goal. However, there’s only so much that the 25-year-old can accomplish given the magnitude of the opposition he will be facing.
Real Madrid will be intent on capitalizing Barcelona dropping points against Rayo Vallecano at home. Nothing but a comfortable win on their trip to Almeria will satisfy Ancelotti and co and they are the favourites to not only win, but score plenty of goals in the process.