Arab Times

Un­changed Real be­gin ti­tle de­fense at So­ciedad

- Sports · UEFA Champions League · College Sports · Soccer · La Liga (Spain) · Madrid · Real Madrid F.C. · Real Sociedad · FC Barcelona · Barcelona · Atlético de Madrid · Sevilla FC · Zinedine Zidane · James Rodríguez · Everton F.C. · Gareth Bale · Tottenham Hotspur Football Club · Karim Benzema · Sergio Ramos García · Eden Hazard · Ferland Mendy · Dani Carvajal · FC Bayern Munich · Munich · Toni Kroos · Isco · Marco Asensio · F.C. Internazionale Milano · A.C. Milan · Japan · Japan national football team · Villarreal CF · Borussia Dortmund · Dortmund · Paris Saint-Germain FC · Paris · SD Eibar · Real Betis · Morelia · Cadiz · Bellingham · Leipzig · Nuremberg · Getafe CF · Vinicius Júnior · Atlético Junior · Rodrygo · Thibaut Courtois · Álvaro Odriozola · Achraf Hakimi · Takefusa Kubo · Alphonse Areola · Unai Emery · Manuel Pellegrini · Real Valladolid · Emre Can · Yussuf Poulsen · Hwang Hee-chan

MADRID, Sept 17, (AP): Real Madrid are keep­ing most of the same play­ers to try to win back-to-back Span­ish leagues for the first time in more than a decade.

Madrid be­gin their ti­tle de­fense on Sun­day at Real So­ciedad with prac­ti­cally the same squad that a few months ago lifted their first league tro­phy in three years. They have not won con­sec­u­tive leagues since 2007-08 as Barcelona have dom­i­nated do­mes­ti­cally.

The Cata­lan ri­vals won eight leagues since Madrid’s last dou­ble, in­clud­ing three in a row from 2009-11. Barcelona won two in a row in 2015-16 and 2018-19. Madrid’s other ti­tles in the last decade came in 2012 and 2017.

The league be­gan last week­end but Madrid didn’t play be­cause they re­ceived ex­tra time to rest after com­pet­ing last month in the Cham­pi­ons League Round of 16. Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, who made it to the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Cham­pi­ons League, won’t play in the first two rounds. Europa League win­ners Sevilla also had their first two games post­poned.

Madrid won their only pre­sea­son match on Tues­day against Getafe.

SOC­CER

Coach Zine­dine Zi­dane is stick­ing to a for­mula that uti­lizes the en­tire squad, and isn’t afraid of switch­ing schemes – he went from tac­tics that fo­cused on three for­wards at times, or three de­fend­ers, and even five mid­field­ers in some cir­cum­stances.

The main player who left was James Ro­dríguez, who joined Ever­ton in the English Premier League. Gareth Bale also was ex­pected to leave and was close to a trans­fer to Tot­ten­ham. But nei­ther Ro­dríguez nor Bale played a big role in Madrid’s 34th league ti­tle, when the team won 10 straight matches after the coro­n­avirus break to over­take Barcelona for the lead.

Zi­dane kept the key play­ers from that run, no­tably striker Karim Ben­zema and de­fender Ser­gio Ramos, who com­bined for 13 goals in the team’s fi­nal 11 league matches. Ben­zema will con­tinue to be sup­ported by young Brazil­ians Viní­cius Júnior and Rodrygo, and also, hope­fully, by an Eden Haz­ard who won’t have to en­dure so many in­jury prob­lems as he did last sea­son — his first with the club.

Thibaut Cour­tois re­turns as the start­ing goal­keeper, and cap­tain Ramos will be flanked by Raphael Varane again, with vet­eran Marcelo and Fer­land Mendy ex­chang­ing starts in the left back po­si­tion. Dani Car­va­jal will likely start at right back, with com­pe­ti­tion from Ál­varo Odri­o­zola after a brief loan to Bay­ern Mu­nich.

Back from a loan to Real So­ciedad was young­ster Martin Ode­gaard, who will be a mid­field op­tion to make up for the ab­sence of Ro­dríguez. The de­fen­sive mid­field will again be an­chored by the ex­pe­ri­enced trio of Ca

semiro, Luka Mo­dric and Toni Kroos. Federico Valverde will likely be used of­ten as well, while Fran­cisco “Isco” Alar­cón and Marco Asen­sio re­main avail­able as at­tack­ing mid­field­ers.

Madrid made some de­cent cash in the off­sea­son by loan­ing the likes of right back Achraf Hakimi to In­ter Mi­lan and young­ster Ós­car Ro­dríguez to Sevilla. Left back Ser­gio Reguilón is set to move to Tot­ten­ham after a stint with Sevilla.

Young Ja­pan for­ward Take­fusa

Kubo was loaned to Vil­lar­real, while Reinier will play with Borus­sia Dort­mund, and Brahim Diaz with AC Mi­lan. De­fender Jesús Vallejo will be loaned to Granada, and goal­keeper Alphonse Are­ola re­turned to Paris Sain­tGer­main after a sea­son with Madrid.

Vil­lar­real and coach Unai Emery will host Eibar on Satur­day, while Real Betis and Manuel Pel­le­grini will wel­come Val­ladolid on Sun­day. Huesca and Cádiz will meet on Sun­day in a matchup of pro­moted clubs.

SOC­CER

mid­fielder Jude Belling­ham looks like Dort­mund’s next young sen­sa­tion after ar­riv­ing from Birm­ing­ham, and scored on his de­but in the Ger­man Cup on Mon­day. But there’s still a lack of depth at the back, with mid­fielder Emre Can drafted in at cen­ter back for the cup game.

Leipzig’s run to the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals was re­mark­able for a team only founded 11 years ear­lier, even given Red Bull’s fi­nan­cial back­ing, but they ob­scured a fun­da­men­tal weak­ness for next sea­son.

With­out Werner, both of Leipzig’s goals in the 2-1 quar­ter­fi­nal win over Atletico Madrid came from mid­field­ers, and the 3-0 semi­fi­nal loss to PSG could have been very dif­fer­ent had cen­ter for­ward Yus­suf Poulsen not missed a good first-half chance while trail­ing 1-0.

New sign­ing Hwang Hee-chan started in the cen­ter for­ward role and scored in Leipzig’s first game of the new sea­son, a 3-0 win over third-di­vi­sion club Nurem­burg in the Ger­man Cup.

 ??  ?? In this May 26, 2018 file photo, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale cel­e­brates after scor­ing his side’s sec­ond goal dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal soc­cer match between Real Madrid and Liver­pool at the Olimpiyski­y Sta­dium in
Kiev, Ukraine. (AP)
In this May 26, 2018 file photo, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale cel­e­brates after scor­ing his side’s sec­ond goal dur­ing the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal soc­cer match between Real Madrid and Liver­pool at the Olimpiyski­y Sta­dium in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP)

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