What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Real Madrid vs Real Betis
When: Sunday 18th August, 2013, at 20:00 UK Time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

New Identity

League runners-up Real Madrid start the new season having displayed a different side of their game following Jose Mourinho’s predictable return to Chelsea last June. Playing under the guidance of multi-time Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, the team hope to continue their good pre-season form with a win in front of their own fans against Real Betis, as they will have to fight Barcelona from day one in order to claim back the league crown.

Under Ancelotti, Los Merengues have shifted from Mourinho’s fast counter-attacking style to a more possessive game. Having signed a series of young, hungry players, a new direction is being taken by the club as Florentino Perez hopes the Italian coach will finally grant him the Champions League trophy this season. With Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract close to being extended and Gareth Bale likely to be a Blanco player before the end of the transfer window, the team’s immediate future looks to be bright.

It will be interesting to see what final line-up Ancelotti will use. Having tried his preferred 4-3-2-1 at the start of pre-season, the tactician seems destined to switch back to the 4-2-3-1 the side have successively utilised in recent times, albeit using a more possessive and passing game. Furthermore, eyes will be fixed between the team’s posts in order to see if Iker Casillas will manage to reclaim the starting goalkeeping spot from Diego Lopez.

Ready to Win

Real Betis have the misfortune of playing the guests in Real Madrid’s first game of the season at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Verdiblancos lost the last time they visited Spain’s capital, falling down 3-1. Having seen the departure of midfield man Benat over the summer, the 2005 Copa del Rey winners will face a massive task as they attempt to shoot down Real Madrid in front of their own fans.

That task will be very hard for Real Betis, as they have won just once during the five times that they faced Real Madrid on the opening day of the season, and that was back in the 1934/35 campaign. Furthermore, Pepe Mel’s side have conceded at least three times during their last three visits to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

However, the coach remains adamant that his side have the sufficient experience to pull off a shocker at Real Madrid’s own venue. “We know we are going to visit the home of Spain's most important team. When you go to the Bernabeu you know that the Whites are the favourites. We know the rivals in front of us, but Betis are ready to win there.”

Recent form

Real Madrid:
Everton 1-2 Real Madrid (04/08; Friendly)
Real Madrid 3-1 Chelsea (08/08; Friendly)
Real Madrid 3-1 Inter (10/08; Friendly)

Real Betis:
Fulham 1-1 Real Betis (05/08; Friendly)
Hull City 3-0 Real Betis (10/08; Friendly)
Everton 2-1 Real Betis (11/08; Friendly)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Raphael Varane; Xabi Alonso; Asier Illarramendi

Real Betis: Ruben Castro; Alex Martinez

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Isco: While Cristiano Ronaldo has been Real Madrid’s best player so far in pre-season, Isco has nonetheless been the top signing. Having joined Los Blancos from Malaga for €30m, the former Valencia man is a guaranteed star for Spain, as Vicente del Bosque recently pointed out. He will hope to dazzle the fans with his first game at the Bernabeu.

Real Betis – Xavi Torres: With Benat gone to Athletic Bilbao and Ruben Castro missing this one through injury, Los Beticos will be without their two best players of last season. In comes Xavi Torres, and the former Barcelona man will be entrusted to run Mel’s midfield and guide Betis to victory.

Match Prediction

Real Madrid’s attitude this past month shows that Los Blancos are all but ready to tackle the new season. Playing in front of their own fans and with an abundance of riches at the coach’s disposal, they should start the new season with a bang. Real Madrid 4-0 Real Betis.

Betting on Real Madrid v Real Betis? Don't before you've visited Inside Bet!