Real raring to wreak revenge on Atletico
Real Madrid, odds-on favourites at 4/7 to win, will be looking to reassert their dominance over city rivals Atletico Madrid in the first-leg of the Spanish Super Cup clash.
Unsurprisingly, Real hold the head-to-head record over the Vicente Calderon club, with 32 victories to Atletico’s five. Diego Simeone’s arrival in town has finally begun to turn the status quo on its head, however, as the Argentine coach lead his team to a league win and draw against Carlo Ancelotti’s outfit last campaign.
Atletico earned the opportunity to be pitted against their noisy neighbours by lifting La Liga, breaking Real and Barca’s decade-long stranglehold on the competition. Los Blancos, meanwhile, simply had to make do with a Copa del Rey and Champions League double.
Seemingly shaken by their smaller capital counterparts’ trophy haul, and fellow bitter rivals Barcelona’s intriguing acquisition of Luis Suarez, Real have blown the budget yet again to bring in World Cup superstars Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.
One fresh face who, according to reports, will not be lining up for Los Blancos, is Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas. Real boss Carlo Ancelotti has opted to stand by Spain stopper and skipper Iker Casillas between the sticks, which could be good news for new Atletico’s new main man, Mario Mandzukic, who is 10/1 to score two or more.
The prolific Croatian poacher will make his debut in a first-leg that will be all about prestige and gaining the upperhand, ahead of the new La Liga season.
Mandzukic netted 26 goals for former club Bayern Munich last term, but found himself surplus to requirements after the arrival of Robert Lewandowski. He will now be tasked with replicating departed talisman Diego Costa’s attacking exploits, after the Brazilian-born striker scored 36 times for the Spanish champions last term.
Another exciting debutant for Atleti fans to feast their eyes on is winger Antoine Griezmann, who is available to at 8/1 to fire home first. The French forward will likely be leading the counter attacks against a weakened Real rearguard, with Pepe set to sit out this encounter. Although that could be a blessing in disguise for Ancelotti, with talented youngster Raphael Varane likely starting in his place.
Griezmann’s pace and potency on the break could be key, as Real will look to keep possession and capitalise on home advantage.
Despite seeing a host of players depart the Vicente Calderon this summer, after one of Atletico’s most successful seasons, a raft of reliable faces still remain.
Much sought-after academy product Koke, Turkish wideman Arda Turan and centre back Joao Miranda were some of Simeone’s top performers last term, and are 5/1 to help Atleti defeat Real again. They defeated Los Blancos 1-0 last season and are 20/1 to repeat that scoreline in this encounter.
Ancelotti, meanwhile, will be suffering from a selection headache most coaches would welcome, as the Italian looks to build on Real’s UEFA Super Cup success.
Eyebrows were raised as James Rodriguez enjoyed a starting berth as a false nine against Fiorentina in pre-season, illustrating the depth of versatile and extravagant attacking options Ancelotti has to cherry pick from.
Rodriguez, 7/1 to open the scoring for Real in his first start at the Bernabeu, may be deployed next to Luka Modric, as he was in Los Blancos’ UEFA Super Cup triumph over fellow Spanish side Sevilla.
A deep-lying Toni Kroos excelled in that game, and should supply the likely attacking trident of Cristiano Ronaldo, 7/1 to hit a hat-trick after bagging a brace against Sevilla, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema with a host of chances. Atleti’s full back positions are a likely weak spot, ripe to be exploited, with ageing Juanfran and new boy Guilherme Siqueira set for a baptism of fire against the devastatingly talented trio.
Last season’s unsung hero Angel Di Maria may miss out on a starting spot, opening the door for Atleti’s disciplined and overpowering midfield to bully a potentially soft centre of Kroos, Modric and Rodriguez.
The Argentine’s work ethic and willingness to run himself into the ground may well be missed, with the former Benfica forward odds-on at 4/6 to move to Manchester United this transfer window.
Atletico are 14/1 to repeat last season’s feat and win back to back La Liga titles, but Ancelotti’s Galacticos, who are odds-on favourites at 10/11 to wrestle back the trophy, may just have too much individual quality for Simeone to stop.