Brand new year, same old story. Real Madrid and Barcelona will continue their fierce battle for supremacy of Spanish football. Like Holmes and Moriarty, Los Blaugranas cannot succeed if their arch-rivals do not fail, and vice versa. However, the two most powerful clubs on the Old Continent start 2017 in very different situations. What can we expect from both in the coming 12 months? IBTimes UK analyses their immediate futures.
Either the "Fifa Badge effect" or a new world record beckons
In December 2014, Real Madrid were on a 22-game winning streak, having just lifted the Fifa Club World Cup trophy by beating San Lorenzo 2-0. They were top of La Liga and nobody questioned they were favourites to lift the trophy again.
However, the first day Carlo Ancelotti's side wore the Fifa Club World Cup badge – given to the competition's winners until a new champion is crowned – they lost away to Valencia (2-1), ending their run.Their Fifa title was the last thing they would win during the 2014-15 season. Two years later, Real Madrid start 2017 with a 37-game unbeaten streak, 27 in La Liga and just 11 short of the all-time record, currently in possession of Real Sociedad. If Zinedine Zidane's side do not stumble over the same stone – they play Sevilla three times in January, twice in the Copa Del Rey – we can expect a new record.
Stability in the dugout
Zinedine Zidane has captivated the Santiago Bernabéu after years of turmoil and division in the most demanding arena in the world. First as a player, now as a manager, he has made history that gives him a significant amount of leeway. But even 'Zizou' is not safe from criticism in Madrid. At the moment his players praise him; in modern football that means half of the job is done for the manager.
Transfer window madness
Real Madrid received a two-year ban after signing foreign players who were under the legal age. However, this ban has since been reduced and they will be able to buy and sell next summer. According to Cuatro, Eden Hazard, David De Gea and Paulo Dybala are the main targets for the club, presided over by Florentino Pérez.
Cristiano scoring 50 goals amid the "Chinese threat"
The Portugal international has scored 50 goals or more in the last six seasons. He ended 2016 scoring a hat trick in the Fifa Club World Cup final and there is no real evidence to suggest that these figures will suddenly decline, even if injuries prevent him from playing for a couple of months. But China is the main threat for Real Madrid's supporters. Jorge Mendes, his agent, admitted recently that an unnamed Chinese club offered Real Madrid €300 million, a bid rejected by both the club and the player.
Champions League semi-final spot must be delivered
Real Madrid have made it to more semi-finals than anyone else throughout the history of European Cup, with 27 appearances in total. In 2016, they played their six consecutive semi-finals for the first time in their history and Napoli will have to provide something special in order to prevent them from reaching the quarter-finals when the Champions League resumes in February. However, Real Madrid will not be content with merely reaching the final eight.
Luis Enrique, unquestioned until last May, admitted recently that he is considering a sabbatical. According to El Confidencial, Barcelona will try to sign Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli. Unless there is an unexpected streak of wins and titles – something unlikely given the performances by Los Blaugranas so far – expect changes in the dugout. Barcelona have risen from the ashes several times before, but do not expect a dominant season.
Leo Messi will sign a new deal
Despite an out-of-this-world offer from China and the tense relationship between the Argentina international and Barça's board of directors, expect Messi to sign a new deal. David Villa explained it better than anyone to Sky Sports last week: "Barcelona love Messi and Messi loves Barcelona, anything else we cannot imagine". The story of the man who is likely to go down as the best to ever play the game cannot end with a different team.
Is the feat of a third double in a row possible?
Barcelona have won La Liga and the Copa del Rey two seasons on the bounce. It is an all-time record – shared with Athletic Club de Bilbao. If they are able to do it again, they will reach an unprecedented milestone. But things need to change on the pitch, mainly in midfield where Andrés Iniesta is the last remaining figure of the memorable "tiki taka" style established by Pep Guardiola.
A midfield renovation
A quick look to Barcelona's academy is enough to see style is non-negotiable with this club. However, for the first time in a decade, Luis Enrique's side is struggling when it comes to keeping possession, and it is becoming obvious that Barça need top-class midfielders to recover their lost magic. Expect important (and expensive) signings in the midfield next summer.
The construction of the new Nou Camp
Barcelona is starting the renovation of Nou Camp stadium in 2017. The design is by Japanese company Nikken Sekkei, who beat the other eight finalists to win the €420m project. The new stadium will increase the seating from 99,350 to 105,000 and Rakuten, the new sponsor of the club, will be responsible for half of the advertising around the ground. The refurbishment will be finished by 2021.