The 2014-15 fixtures were released on Thursday, outlining the path Real must take if they are to establish themselves as Kings of Spain once more:
|Real Madrid 2014/15 Fixture List|
|2||August 31||Real Sociedad|
|3||September 14||Atletico Madrid|
|4||September 21||Deportivo de la Coruna|
|7||October 5||Athletic Bilbao|
|11||November 9||Rayo Vallecano|
|14||December 12||Celta Viga|
|21||February 1||Real Sociedad|
|22||February 8||Atletico Madrid|
|23||February 15||Deportivo de la Coruna|
|26||March 8||Athletic Bilbao|
|30||April 8||Rayo Vallecano|
|33||April 26||Celta Viga|
Three minutes tipped the balance of Madrid's 2013-14 campaign from complete disaster to historic triumph. Had Sergio Ramos not scored the equaliser in the 93rd minute of the Champions League final, Los Blancos would have lost out on the league and been deprived of "La Decima" by one of their most hated rivals.
Real Madrid's Copa del Rey win would have rung hollow, and manager Carlo Ancelotti almost certainly would have been out of a job.
He called it "a dream come true, literally," per UEFA.com's Alfredo Rodriguez.
"When you're a little boy you dream of lifting the Champions League, and to lift the 10th one for Real Madrid is special," he added. "It's one that will go down in history."
Fresh Faces Bring Hunger to Madrid
Despite the club's Champions League and Copa del Rey successes, its performance in the league was dotted by inconsistent patches, such as the three-match stretch at the end of the season that featured draws against Valencia and Real Valladolid and defeat at the hands of Celta Vigo.
Next season should be different. Last year's summer signings are fully bedded into both the squad and La Liga, while younger stars like Daniel Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Jese are ready to take on larger roles. Jese, in particular, could be in for big things after essentially supplanting Alvaro Morata in the lineup:
Additionally, Madrid have added two of the World Cup's top performers in Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, bringing even more invention to their already frightening attack.
Obviously, the first two matches that stick out the most are those initial clashes against Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. Those fixtures allow Madrid to lay a marker down in the first half of the season. If they take all six points, they'll have likely inserted themselves as title favourites, while dropping points to one or both might create unnecessary panic.
Last year, Los Blancos dropped both matches in the first half of the campaign. The 1-0 home defeat to Atletico was particularly galling.
Next year will likely be a return to normality in terms of the duopoly. Madrid and Barca will get back to conquering all in their path and collecting 90-100 points.
The margin for error will be extremely small, so dropping points early in the season would put Real in a tough position. Two years ago, they lost 2-1 to Getafe on Matchday 2 and then 1-0 to Sevilla on Matchday 4. And that was after a 1-1 draw with Valencia in the opener.
Madrid went unbeaten from Matchday 23 on, with 13 wins and three draws. However, they still finished 15 points back of Barcelona.
Compare that to 2011-12, when Real Madrid registered 100 points and won La Liga by nine points. Through the first 15 matches of the season, they dropped eight out of a possible 45 points, and then after that, six out of the next 69.
Some other intriguing matches come later in the season against the mid-to-lower-table sides. In the past, those kinds of fixtures have cost Madrid the title.
In 2010-11, they lost to Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza. Barcelona won the title by four points.
This past season, Madrid's draws against Valencia and Valladolid and the subsequent loss to Celta Vigo essentially cost them the title.
Real Madrid don't often fail to win, but when they do, it's always extremely costly.
Ancelotti should be able to ride the wave of momentum created by last year's Champions League triumph. As long as Los Blancos don't have too many early hiccups, they'll be in pole position in La Liga.
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