Real Madrid v Betis Preview: Los Blancos begin Ancelotti era

The Italian’s mission to bring La Liga back to the Santiago Bernabeu starts with a home clash on Sunday

Last season Real Madrid saw the league crown stolen from their grasp by Barcelona.

Defeat to Atetico Madrid in the Copa del Rey final saw them finish the campaign without a major trophy and 15 points behind their fierce rivals in La Liga and they will need to demonstrate significant improvement under new coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The Italian, who led Paris Saint-Germain to their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years last term, has already made his mark on the squad with a host of new signings.

The former Chelsea boss acted quickly to bring in Isco from Malaga, while fellow midfielder Asier Illarramendi - who is a doubt for the Betis game through injury - has also been drafted in from Real Sociedad, both for sizeable fees.

Cristiano Ronaldo is certain to be part of Ancelotti’s starting line-up on Sunday, but a number of first-team regulars are doubtful, including Xabi Alonso, Raphael Varane, Fabio Coentrao and Pepe.

Betis enjoyed their best league finish in six years when they placed seventh last term, earning a spot in the Europa League play-off round.

Pepe Mel does not have the same resources at his disposal to strengthen in the same way as his Madrid counterpart, but the Betis boss has still brought in 13 new recruits.

Most have arrived on free transfers, but Mel did dip into the club’s coffers to lure Getafe midfielder Xavi Torres.

However, the departure of Benat Etxebarria from Athletic Bilbao will have come as a significant blow to their hopes of building on last season’s achievements.

And Betis’ chances of getting a positive result at the Santiago Bernabeu have been lessened by the absence of Ruben Castro - who scored 18 Liga goals last season - with a hamstring injury.