Much after a disappointing FIFA World Cup campaign in Brazil, Spanish Football fans are preparing themselves for the regular football season to commence when La Liga champions Atletico Madrid take on Copa Del Rey holders Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
Real Madrid are now a stronger unit following the 4-1 drubbing of their city rivals in the Champions League final in May. To further enhance their chances of silverware next season, the 10 time European champions have signed Colombian star James Rodriguez, Germany’s Toni Kroos and Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas; the trio who starred for their respective countries at the World Cup.
The star-studded side, which also includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, rekindles memories of the ‘Galacticos’ era which comprised of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, David Beckham, Ronaldo, Raul Gonzalez, Fabio Cannavaro and Roberto Carlos in Los Blancos’ roster. However, despite the latter’s strength on paper, they failed to win a major trophy for three consecutive years. In time, a lot of careers of Michael Owen, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Emmanuel Adebayor also went abruptly wayward.
It will be interesting to see how Carlo Ancelotti manages to form a cohesive unit with the plethora of stars in his side and create an enviable line-up of winners. The former AC Milan and Chelsea manager has plenty of experience on his CV but like his predecessors at the Santiago Bernabeu, hehas a huge task of keeping the egos of star players in check.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas, Keylor Navas
Defenders: Raphael Varane, Pepe, Nacho Fernandez, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, Marcelo, Daniel Carvajal, Alvaro Arbeloa
Midfielders: Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel di Maria, Isco, Asier Illarramendi
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Jese
On the other hand, Atletico have lost some of their star players, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis to Chelsea while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois too returned to Jose Mourinho’s side after spending three seasons on loan at the Vicente Calderon. Departures of Diego Ribas and Adrian Lopez were of little concern for Diego Simeone but the has seen the funds received from outgoing transfers reinvested into his squad.
Coveted Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic was one of the major arrivals from Bayern Munich alongside French winger Antoine Griezmann from fellow La Liga outfit Real Sociedad. Guilherme Siqueira was brought in to fill Filipe Luis’ void at left back while Jan Oblak and Miguel Angel Moya fight to take Courtois’ place in goal.
Simeone will be keen on drawing first blood on Los Rojiblancos’ city rivals and avenge for the defeats in Copa del Rey semi-final as well as the Champions League final in Lisbon.
Goalkeepers: Jan Oblak, Miguel Angel Moya
Defenders: Diego Godin, Miranda, Toby Alderweireld, Jose Gimenez, Guilherme Siqueira, Cristian Ansaldi, Emiliano Insua, Juanfran, Jesus Gamez, Silvio
Midfielders: Mario Suarez, Saul Niguez, Gabi, Tiago Mendes, Koke, Raul Garcia, Arda Turan, Cristian Rodriguez, Antonie Griezmann
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic, Raul Jimenez, Leo Baptistao