UEFA symbolically raise the curtain on the new European football season as last season’s Champions League winners Real Madrid meet Europa League victors Sevilla in an all La-Liga UEFA Super Cup clash in Cardiff, and Spanish football expert Dermot Corrigan previews the clash in the Welsh capital...
Madrid’s two latest ‘galactico’ signings James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos are set for their debuts, but not new goalkeeper Keylor Navas as Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti says last season’s Champions League starter Iker Casillas will play.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema could also make their first starts since the World Cup, despite reports the Portuguese has not sufficiently rested the left-knee problem which so hampered his end to last season. Xabi Alonso serves a suspension imposed for leaping from the bench to celebrate Gareth Bale’s clinching goal during May’s final against Atletico Madrid.
Sevilla coach Unai Emery is tipped to use a 4-5-1 shape with Colombian international Carlos Bacca – who scored twice in a 2-1 La Liga win over Madrid last season - up front. New loan signing Denis Suarez from Barcelona B could take Ivan Rakitic's former playmaking role in midfield. Alberto Moreno should play at left-back before completing a move to Liverpool later in the week.
Madrid’s results during their pre-season US tour were not good [1-1 with Inter Milan, 0-1 loss to Roma and 3-1 defeat to Manchester United], with Ancelotti making-do without most of his World Cup stars. Most worrying was a still shaky looking Casillas being at least partially to blame for all three goals against United. More positively Bale looks fit and hungry after an extended summer rest - scoring his side’s only two goals, including a 25 yard screamer against Inter.
Sevilla’s preparations have been more low-key, but results have been more impressive. Recent 2-0 wins against Hertha Berlin, Fenerbahce and Cordoba suggest Emery’s side are well tuned-up, and both Bacca and Denis scored in last Saturday's most recent win over newly promoted Andalucian rivals Cordoba.
Carlo Ancelotti [Madrid coach]: “It is special because it is the first official match after a World Cup that several of my players participated in. It will not be easy to prepare for, but we want to win it.”
Jose Castro [Sevilla president]: “We are up against a very financially strong opponent. It will be difficult, but Sevilla have trained with scary intensity and will make it very difficult for them. I hope we win.”
Bale back home
The Wales star has spoken widely of his delight at playing such a showpiece game in his home city. Scoring in both last season’s Copa del Rey and Champions League finals also showed Bale's liking for the big occasion.
Madrid minds elsewhere
The biggest intangible pre-game is the motivation of Madrid’s players [Bale aside]. Club president Florentino Perez will want to show off his new signings, and Ancelotti will be keen to get his big names match-fit quickly, but Los Blancos’ players might have one eye already on next week’s Spanish Supercopa against local neighbours Atletico Madrid.
Sevilla sense upset
Sevilla surely sense the opportunity for a similar result to 2006, when Juande Ramos’ Rojiblancos side beat another La Liga giant Barcelona 3-0 in Monaco. Such shocks are not uncommon in this game, with Europa League winners Atletico Madrid embarrassing Chelsea 4-1 two years ago, and Zenit Saint Petersburg beating Manchester United 2-1 in 2008.
Score Prediction: 1-1 in normal time at 9.00
Best bet: Draw at 4.90
Sevilla are coming in confident, but are still likely to sit tight, not give anything up, and hope to catch out Madrid on the break. So the draw looks very tempting.