MADRID - Real Madrid kick off the Spanish season against Deportivo Coruna on Saturday needing to prove that splashing out a quarter of a billion euros will eclipse treble-winning rivals Barcelona.
Florentino Perez has returned as Real president pledging a "spectacular sporting project" and the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and others has lifted the hopes of the fans.
The club have a chance to lay down a marker at home to Depor as Barca's opening La Liga match against Sporting Gijon has been put back to Monday due to the European and Spanish champions' Super Cup clash against Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine on Friday.
"It's not about any individual player but about the whole team which has to organise itself and hone a collective strategy," Spain midfielder Alonso told the daily Publico on Thursday.
Under new coach Manuel Pellegrini, poached from Villarreal, Real hope Alonso can provide the creative spark in central midfield that was lacking last season and help them match the slick passing and devastating attacking play of Barca.
Real's strategy will be maintaining possession, controlling the tempo of matches, being dynamic and showing movement in attack, added Alonso who joined from Liverpool this month.
Barca have already won one trophy this season, a thumping 5-1 aggregate win over Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup, with coach Pep Guardiola adding striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and left back Maxwell to his squad.
As well as La Liga, the Catalans will also be defending their Champions League and King's Cup titles and contesting the FIFA Club World Cup.
"Repeating the treble will be very difficult," midfielder Sergio Busquets told the club's website.
"We are the only club who have done it in Spain and very few teams in Europe have matched it. But you win titles by taking it slowly, each match at a time, like last season."
Busquets is one of a core of Barca players including Argentina forward Lionel Messi and Spain midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta who came through the club's youth system.
Ibrahimovic joined from Italian champions Inter Milan in a swap deal with Samuel Eto'o and believes Real will be under a lot more pressure to succeed this season than Barca.
"They have bought players to try to win, to try to create a winning team, whereas I have come to a club that is already a winner," the Swede told the As newspaper.
"Clearly you can't do that in 24 hours, nor in a week or even a month. You need time."
Sevilla, third last season, have added striker Alvaro Negredo and other players to their squad despite lacking the vast spending power of Real and Barca. They begin their campaign at Valencia on Sunday.
"Winning the league is extremely difficult and the clubs who are obliged to do so are the ones with the most revenue," president Jose Maria del Nido told the club's website.
"But we have built a squad that is competitive enough to hold our own in a fight with the big guys."
Atletico Madrid play at Malaga on Sunday and coach Abel Resino has managed to hold on to prize assets Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, last season's league top scorer, as the club bid to improve on their fourth-place finish.comments