La Liga: Can Barcelona wrestle back the title from Real Madrid?

With Real Madrid out to defend the crown they claimed so easily last season and Barcelona desperate to return to winning ways through an impressively restocked squad, a fascinating title race looks guaranteed in Spain.

Before this weekend’s kick-off in La Liga, soccanews examines the main storylines of the leading contenders.

After cruising to last season’s title by 13 points, Real Madrid head into the new campaign with high hopes of claiming consecutive league crowns for the first time since 2008.

Carlo Ancelotti has strengthened his squad with the capture of centre-back Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea and defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni from Monaco.

And although Ancelotti has historically leaned towards fielding his favoured starting XI more often than not, those new arrivals – along with Eduardo Camavinga, Fede Valverde and Rodrygo – should receive plenty of playing time in a season where squad rotation will be more important than ever considering the interruption of the World Cup.

An exception, however, is Karim Benzema. Real’s unexpected failure to land Kylian Mbappe means Benzema is the squad’s only centre-forward – Luka Jovic has departed to Fiorentina and Ancelotti has never trusted Mariano Diaz.

And the heavy goalscoring reliance on a player who turns 35 in December is the biggest question mark over Real’s title ambitions.

There is, however, a potential X-factor. Eden Hazard has been a massive disappointment since his arrival from Chelsea, with a series of injuries restricting him to a paltry tally of just six goals in three seasons.

But now Hazard is fit, with a full pre-season under his belt and boosted by the endorsement of Ancelotti, who plans to use the Belgian in a false nine role.

If he can take that opportunity to finally become the free-scoring superstar we used to see at Stamford Bridge, it would provide valuable depth in the only area where Real look vulnerable.

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