Los Blancos have been rampant in La Liga recently and boast a formidable home record in the Champions League meaning they should be able to record a comfortable win
It speaks volumes about Rafael Benitez as a coach that he said on more than more occasion his side needed to improve during his post-match press conference on Saturday afternoon.
That his Real Madrid team had just won 6-0 away at Espanyol was clearly a source of pleasure to the new Blancos boss, but such is his level of expectation that he was not entirely satisfied with the showing.
It is hard to think that this kind of relentless perfectionism is not a good thing for a team like the capital side, who will win many matches comfortably this season, yet no one in the squad will be slacking off with a demanding coach at the helm.
Madrid begin their European campaign on Tuesday night with a game against Ukranian champions Shakhtar Donetsk at the Bernabeu, and while there were aspects of Saturday’s performance that Benitez might want to improve on, in truth the thrashing of Espanyol was the perfect warm-up for the Champions League opener.
Furthermore, Madrid’s main man, Cristiano Ronaldo, ended his goal ‘drought’ of two games in spectacular fashion. The Portuguese netted five times on Saturday, meaning he will be bristling with even more self-confidence than usual.
Benitez’s men will more than fancy their chances at the Bernabeu, where they have not lost a group game in six years, and Paddy Power offer them at 1/7 (1.14).
Shakhtar, for their part, also enjoyed an excellent away win at the weekend, thrashing Metalist 5-0, yet the country’s champions have lost some of their most influential players this summer.
Gone are both Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano, who offered the side pace and goals, and while former Arsenal striker Eduardo remains at the club, their squad looks weaker than it has done in quite some time.
Benitez has been quite clear in his desire for his side to be balanced, playing attacking football but with the players fully aware of their defensive duties and with three games played in La Liga the team are yet to concede a goal.
Of course, the caveat to that statistic is that their opening opponents Sporting Gijon, Real Betis and Espanyol are not attacking powerhouses in the division, yet Madrid’s defensive security certainly bodes well for their domestic and European season.