6 Bold Predictions for Real Madrid in 2014
Real Madrid didn't have the greatest of years in 2013. Dressing room unrest and a trophy-less season were the biggest disappointments as Jose Mourinho's tenure came to an end.
They did splash the cash in signing Gareth Bale, and the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti as coach meant the club would have someone in position that is happy to work within the structure and has previously provided success in similar environments.
Madrid to Increase Their British Contingent
The world-record fee for Bale may just be the start of a new generation of British personnel in the Spanish capital.
With assistant manager Paul Clement representing the English in the back room staff, there's every possibility others will follower.
Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole has been a target of Los Blancos in the past and has just six months remaining on his contract.
Wayne Rooney is another player that has seen his name linked with the club. While it's difficult to envisage the striker playing in a foreign country, Manchester United's stubborn refusal to do business with a Premiership team for his services could see the Scouser forced into a spell abroad.
Iker Casillas to Find a New Home
Perhaps this doesn't seem like such an outrageous statement, given the fact he spent almost the entirety of 2013 on the bench during league matches.
But this is the club captain and a legend at the Bernabeu. Traditionally, Real Madrid has had strong personalities that seek an element of control, but the Mourinho era saw a slight shift in the in-house politics.
Ancelotti is the second manager to favour Diego Lopez, and a goalkeeper of the quality of Casillas can't afford to continue to be an understudy or just be given cup competitions.
Varane to Become First-Choice Centre-Back
The French youngster has had his issues with injuries in recent months, but his level of performance before his knee problem—especially in the "clasico"—was outstanding.
With Pepe's temperamental nature and Ancelotti favouring Sergio Ramos as a full-back, the future of Madrid in the centre of defence is without a doubt Raphael Varane.
This transition to the mainstay at the back might be sooner rather than later. With a number of top teams keeping tabs, his negotiating position for first-team football becomes stronger.
Bale to Develop into a Superstar on and off the Pitch
It could easily be argued that the former Tottenham winger is already one of the best players on the planet, but this growth will continue throughout the next 12 months.
Whilst his traits on the field hold a number of similarities with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, his different personality will help the two of them when marketing the brand.
Despite no preseason and disruption with injuries, he has still obtained a very high level of play, which will only increase if managed in a proper manner.
Real Madrid to Be La Liga Champions
They may be five points behind the two league leaders, but as long as the gap doesn't widen, Madrid are very much in the race.
With a trip to the Vicente Calderon and Barcelona visiting the Bernabeu in March, there's every chance they can close in on the sides with good performances in the head-to-head matches.
Ancelotti's experience in these situations could be pivotal whilst using Mourinho's failure in his final six months as a psychological advantage.
Crosstown Rivals to Take the Shine off the Title and Win the Champions League
This isn't strictly a Real Madrid prediction, but how gutted would the "whites" be if Atletico were to take Europe's top prize.
The club as whole, including president Florentino Perez, has talked of their insatiable appetite for "La Decima."
To see their nearest rivals take the competition would be difficult for fans to accept, even with a La Liga title in the trophy cabinet.
Atletico might not possess strength in their depth over a 38-game league campaign, but a two-legged cup tournament is an opposing situation.