Real Madrid begin their battle for Spanish supremacy with Barcelona by welcoming Real Betis to the Bernabeu.
In most leagues, watching the second-place and seventh-place finishers would be an interesting matchup. Since this is La Liga, you don't give the seventh-place team much of a chance (h/t Real Madrid Twitter account).
Fans have become accustomed to seeing Barcelona and Madrid cannibalize the rest of Spain, but this is getting ridiculous. Aside from the top two clubs, the Spanish league is seeing a major talent drain, as European teams cherry pick the best talent of every other club.
Radamel Falcao, Iago Aspas, Thiago Alcantara, Gary Medel, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado have all left Spain for greener pastures.
Of course, Madrid have only strengthened this summer. Although they lost Gonzalo Higuain, they've added Isco and Asier Illarramendi. It's been a policy of relying a little more on young Spanish talent, as Alvaro Morata and Jese are academy projects who appear poised to see some action as well.
Los Blancos made what is becoming their annual tour of the United States and won the International Champions Cup (h/t Real Madrid Instagram account).
Although it was just a preseason tournament, it was a strong showing from the club, and continued the positive momentum following the hiring of Carlo Ancelotti and the additions of Isco and Illarramendi.
Madrid shouldn't have much trouble in their La Liga curtain-raiser.
Here's a quick preview for this La Liga battle.
When: Sunday, August 18, at 3 p.m. ET (20:00 BST)
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
Watch: beIN Sport
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play Plus
Real Madrid Player to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
Is there any other player you'd want to watch?
Cristiano Ronaldo is poised to have a huge season now that he's free of Jose Mourinho's more totalitarian regime as Madrid manager. Ancelotti is a players' manager who will take Ronaldo aside and tell him how good he is each and every week. It's the kind of support the winger needs but didn't get with Mourinho.
His record against Real Betis is actually not all that good. He's yet to score against Betis in Madrid (h/t Tim Caple).
Some money on #Ronaldo to score v Betis might be good investment he never scored against them in Madrid— tim caple (@timcaple) August 16, 2013
With that in mind, you got a feeling he's due. Ronaldo should be able to get plenty of space down the left flank, even if Real Betis sit back and bunker in.
Real Betis Player to Watch: Xavi Torres
If Betis are to get much from this match, Xavi Torres will have to be at his best in midfield.
The 26-year-old made the move to Real Betis this summer, having spent his career with Barcelona, Malaga, Levante and most recently Getafe. He was one of the more creative players for Levante, which was much-needed given their propensity for direct, physical football.
Torres can play in a defensive position and also operate as a deep-lying playmaker.
With Madrid's strength in midfield, Torres will have to provide cover for teammates. Betis will be sitting back for most of the match, but when Madrid get the opportunity to counter, Torres will have to make sure he's in position, or Betis will get picked apart.
What's the result of this match?
Betis' only hope is to sit back and let Madrid run right at them. Lesser teams had a lot of success with that strategy last season. Rather than trying to attack Real Madrid, opposition sides bunkered in and tried to eliminate Madrid's chances on the counter.
Although it may prove fruitful for a short time, it's not going to work out for the entirety of the match.
Madrid will snag a goal before halftime, and it will be an uphill battle for Real Betis from that point forward. It will be a great league debut for Ancelotti and a major marker for the club as they look to take down Barcelona.
Real Madrid 3, Real Betis 0