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Managing Madrid Roundtable: 2023/2024 Season Preview

The new season is here, and the crew is back to give their predictions!

SOCCER: JUL 29 Champions Tour - Real Madrid vs Barcelona Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In his second tenure with Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti has secured an elusive third season as manager. What do you expect from the Italian in year 3?

Kiyan Sobhani: He is going to have a very challenging season, and a lot of it won’t be his fault. He has no control over Thibaut Courtois’s injury, the club not replacing Karim Benzema, or the lack of a right-back signing. Ultimately, it’s Ancelotti that will fall on the sword, fair or unfair.

Having said that, I’d like him to improve on the things that are in his control. The team’s press needs to improve dramatically. I hope Ancelotti sticks with it (he has desired as much publicly with Jude Bellingham’s arrival), even through some growing pains, to help form a cohesive, engrained identity, as that will help stop some of the bleeding on defense. I think he also has an opportunity to enforce Aurelien Tchouameni as the starting single pivot, which in turn puts Toni Kroos in his best position and improves the defensive tracking.

Can he maximize the offensive output of Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo Goes, Jude Bellingham? There will be lots of questions asked of him tactically, but it’s a difficult situation to be in.

Lucas Navarrete: I don’t expect much as I’m extremely skeptic and doubtful about the situation with the Brazilian National Team. How invested in developing the young talent is he going to be when he’s going to leave the club no matter what? The writing is on the wall, it seems that he would need to complete a historic season to stay and odds of that happening aren’t very high. I think that he will revert to the 4-3-3 formation fairly soon and if that happens I expect Kroos and Modric to get almost as many minutes as they did last season, which will not be ideal.

Euan McTear: We all know that 2023/24 is Ancelotti’s final season at the club and, while some fear he may not care as much because of this, I believe this can be a good thing. The Italian will want to cement his status as a club legend and will want to go out on a high, so I expect him and the squad to take LaLiga a lot more seriously than they did last campaign. The Champions League early rounds will take care of themselves, before that tournament grows in importance, so I expect the early part of the season to be all about picking up three points week in week out. Will that be with a new formation and new faces? I’m sceptical about that. But, I do expect Ancelotti to start Bellingham in almost every game and for his fresh energy to drive this squad towards the league title.

Matt Wiltse: In his four previous seasons as Real Madrid manager, Carlo Ancelotti has shown adaptability and despite some stubbornness, an open mind. I expect Ancelotti may begin the season with a diamond but find too many flaws in transition and opt back to a 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1. Despite a more standard formation, I expect Ancelotti be creative in the ways he fits the likes of Belllingham, Camavinga, Valverde, and Rodrygo into the eleven. My theory is that Ancelotti will push the idea of a “transition” more so than other seasons and Kroos + Modric may see less than 3,000 minutes.

Mehedi Hassan: Ancelotti’s first season after his return had been excellent, with a double. But the second season saw a different reality, and by the time Real Madrid crashed out of the UCL in a humiliating fashion vs. Man City, a lot of the team’s glaring flaws were exposed in the worst possible way. After two different seasons with different outcomes on the trophy count, Real Madrid remains vulnerable tactically. The team still struggles to press and struggles under pressure. There are persistent, inexplicable defensive lapses during set-pieces and open-play sequences. Since not much work was done on these two areas in the last two seasons, it is less of an expectation and more of a wish of mine that Ancelotti works on the team’s press and defensive discipline this season, especially when he has so many energetic and dynamic midfielders.

The club have made five new signings in the summer transfer window, what elements will this new crop of players bring to the team that differ from seasons prior?

Lucas Navarrete: The playmaking on offense will undoubtedly improve with the likes of Fran Garcia and Bellingham playing consistent minutes. Madrid will almost certainly have a more effective game plan than they did last season, and I don’t expect the team to rely on Vinicius as much as they did. On the other hand, it won’t be easy for the team to find the back of the net, so generating lots of chances will be needed for Madrid to win games consistency.

Euan McTear: Honestly, I’m not expecting or demanding much from Brahim, Güler or Joselu this season, but they’ll all provide some depth and, hopefully, some much-needed goals in the case of Joselu. But, Fran García and Bellingham really do add something different, each in their own way. The full-back position has been a problem for a few years now, and Fran García at this moment in time is a major improvement over Mendy, not least because of his availability. Then, Bellingham is a world-class player, a potential Ballon d’Or winner. Adding a player of that quality, and versatility, is going to be a massive boost.

Mehedi Hassan: Among our new signings, Fran Garcia lifts our offensive floor and ceiling on the left flank. Although it is ironic that in one season we finally get an offensive left-back, Vinicius has been moved to center-forward for the diamond. Regardless, Fran is a great outlet and a great crosser of the ball. We have been missing this with Mendy, big time. Next, Jude Bellingham, an instant superstar. I have been seriously impressed by his performances in the preseason. His one-touch play, off-ball intelligence to get into the box, and ball striking will be key for us. I do not expect Joselu or Brahim to have a significant impact on this team. Perhaps Joselu has a better chance than Brahim if he can score some goals in deadlock situations off the bench. I don’t expect Arda Guler to get much game time in his first season, even more so as he will be getting a delayed start to his Madrid career due to an unfortunate injury. The club is on the right path to proceed with extreme caution regarding Arda.

Matt Wiltse: Joselu brings an aerial presence inside the box and a central focal point to play off of when our fluid front two or three are not clicking. I think the 33-year-old will have a bigger role off the bench than most expect. Fran Garcia’s pace and ball carrying ability means Vinicius can venture more centrally like Ancelotti has experimented with in preseason. The fullback brings new energy to that role and a high-octane engine that will allow him to get up and down the flank. Brahim and Arda will likely be battling out for the same minutes and bring a spark off the bench. While Asensio could produce a goal or assist out of nothing, he lacked spark and lacked influence on overall build-up and gameplay. Guler and Brahim will do the opposite, capable of changing a game from the bench but not as much through goals and assists as through combination play with teammates and ingenuity off the dribble. Last but not least, Bellingham will give the team more goals from midfield, the ability to win the ball higher up the pitch, and he will provide late-arriving runs from mdifield that cause nightmares for defenders and midfielders attempting to track him.

Kiyan Sobhani: Real depth. Unlike Mariano Diaz, Eden Hazard, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola — the new signings can provide meaningful minutes. Bellingham is already a star; while Fran Garcia is going to be a great option the club didn’t have last season. Be patient with Arda Güler given his age and health concerns, and Joselu and Brahim Diaz are respectable squad players even if not solutions as starters.

What is your “hot take” for the season?

Matt Wiltse: Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes combine for 55 goals or more this season in all competitions.

Euan McTear: Real Madrid won’t lose a single home game this season in any competition. The last time this happened was 1996/97, but the Bernabéu is going to be a fortress this year. The construction work is almost fully completed and we’ll get back to full capacity, while the pitch should be a lot better than it was last campaign now that there won’t be so much dust. No team will enjoy visiting Chamartín and no team, Spanish or European, will win there in 2023/24.

Mehedi Hassan: Against odds, Madrid will win LaLiga even if we don’t sign Mbappe.

Kiyan Sobhani: Real Madrid will win the Champions League and Vinicius Jr will win the Balon D’or in 2024.

Lucas Navarrete: I’m not sure if Ancelotti will be the coach past Christmas. Again, the situation is extremely tricky and it seems to me that he’s already the perfect scapegoat for the board if things don’t go according to plan during the first half of the season. If Real Madrid are six points behind Barcelona in the table while also having struggled in the Group Stage of the Champions League, I could see Madrid parting ways with Ancelotti after a few months.

Give us your predictions for:

A) Unsung hero of the season

B) MIP (most improved)


Euan McTear:

A) Unsung hero of the season: Antonio Rüdiger

B) MIP (most improved): Aurélien Tchouaméni

C) MVP: Jude Bellingham

Kiyan Sobhani:

A) Unsung hero of the season: Rodrygo Goes

B) MIP (most improved): Aurelien Tchouameni

C) MVP: Vinicius Junior

Mehedi Hassan:

A) Unsung hero of the season: Fran Garcia

B) MIP (most improved): Aurelien Tchouameni, after a difficult second half of last season.

C) MVP: Vinícius José Paixão de Oliveira Júnior.

Lucas Navarrete:

A) Fran Garcia. I just think he’s going to be a massive improvement over Mendy.

B) Tchouameni. He struggled a bit during the second half of last season but I can see him establishing himself in the XI again.

C) Bellingham. His playmaking is going to be a huge breath of fresh air.

Matt Wiltse:

A) Unsung hero of the season: David Alaba

B) MIP (most improved): Aurelien Tchouameni

C) MVP: Vinicius Junior

Give us your final season predictions: Standings in La Liga, Copa, and UCL.

Lucas Navarrete:

La Liga: 1st

UCL: Out in the Quarterfinals

Copa: Semifinals

Euan McTear:

LaLiga: Champions

Champions League: Semi-finals

Copa: Last 16

Matt Wiltse:

La Liga: 1st

UCL: Semifinals

Copa: Semifinals

Mehedi Hassan:

Well, I have divided my predictions based on Mbappe.

If we don’t sign him:

LaLiga - 2nd

UCL - Quarter Finals

CdR - Champions


If we sign him:

LaLiga - Champions

UCL - Champions

CdR - Champions

Kiyan Sobhani:

La Liga: 1st

UCL: Champions

Copa del Rey: Quarterfinals

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