Graphic: Why Rafa Benitez should select this Real Madrid XI versus Sporting Gijon

Sporting Gijon Fans

Spanish giants Real Madrid travel to Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Real Madrid kick off their 2015/16 La Liga campaign with a trip to newly-promoted Sporting Gijon as boss Rafa Benitez eyes a solid first official game in charge of the club.

The Spanish giants have been fairly quiet this summer on the transfer front, with the biggest news coming out the club being the departure of iconic goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

It’s a fairly straightforward test for Benitez to start the campaign with, and with a near fully fit squad to choose from there is no reason why he shouldn’t hold back from naming his strongest XI.

Back five:

With Keylor Navas slotting in to the number one spot, arguably the biggest decision for Benitez is whether he decides to drop regular right-back Dani Carvajal for new signing Danilo.

Carvajal is an extremely solid right-back defensively, but going forward last season he struggled to link-up with Gareth Bale and that had a big knock-on effect for the Wales international.

Danilo, a summer recruit from Porto, is undeniably a more attacking player and his marauding runs down the right could give Bale far more room to manoeuvre in the final third.

It’s likely going to be a trial period for now, but with Sporting Gijon not expected to pose too many problems, it’s an ideal game for Benitez to hand the Brazilian his official Madrid debut.

With Pepe still nursing an injury, Raphael Varane takes his place.

Midfield trio:

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will start the campaign as the club’s first-choice midfield partnership, though against better teams there are doubts over the defensive protection from the duo.

As for the attacking star of a likely midfield trio, it’s a case of rotating Isco and James Rodriguez depending on form and fitness. Both bring different qualities, with the latter arguably a bigger goal threat.

Karim Benzema’s injury and likely absence means there is scope to play both players on Sunday, and Benitez ought to consider that option with Isco capable of pushing out to the left.

Attacking trio:

In Benzema’s expected absence, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is widely tipped to play at centre-forward and against Gijon it’s a great chance to trial him there for the future.

Gareth Bale has been deployed in a number of areas in the final third during pre-season, but his best roles are on either wing and playing him through the middle limits his ability and space for his teammates.

The former Spurs ace ought to start on the right with Isco on the left, but if things start to become a bit routine then the duo presumably have the licence to switch positions throughout the game.

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