La Liga champions Atletico Madrid gave themselves a wonderful chance of capturing the Spanish Super Cup after a 1-1 draw in Tuesday's first leg against bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Raul Garcia equalised late in the game to earn the draw against Los Blancos, leaving European champions Real needing a goal during Friday's second leg at the Calderon.
The Galacticos had opened the scoring in the second half through their latest superstar signing, Colombian wizard James Rodriguez.
The new addition came on for Cristiano Ronaldo at half-time with CR7 suffering from injury, and there will be much intrigue in Ronaldo's fitness going into Friday's decider.
Here is how you can watch the concluding episode of this classic encounter:
When: Friday, Aug. 22, at 9.30 p.m. BST/4.30 p.m. ET
Where: Vicente Calderon Stadium, Madrid, Spain
TV Info: Live on Sky Sports 5 & HD (UK only), ESPN (US only)
James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos To Lead Los Blancos
It was no surprise to see the winner of the World Cup Golden Boot make his bow for his new team in the Spanish Super Cup, and James Rodriguez arrived in some style.
It was his goal that gave Carlo Ancelotti's men the advantage in the second half of the first leg, instantly showing Real fans he will provide a goalscoring presence from deep this season.
Also on show was World Cup winner Toni Kroos, and he displayed exactly why Madrid jumped the queue for his services and snatched him from Bayern Munich. His control and assurance on the ball is of world-class quality and he will be relied upon to dictate the tempo in the second leg.
Football journalist Sergi Dominguez lauded Kroos' performance in the traditional Spanish season opener but criticised James for a lack of sharpness, despite his goal:
Despite James' lack of overall quality, the pressure will now be on him after the news of Ronaldo's back injury, per BBC Sport. Ancelotti is quoted saying by the BBC:
"Cristiano felt something and was uncomfortable. We'll evaluate it. He'll undergo all the checks and we'll see. It doesn't seem to be anything too serious."
Ronaldo's injury may even mean a start for Rodriguez as Madrid look to topple their neighbours ahead of the 2014-15 La Liga campaign.
James was outstanding for Colombia during the World Cup in Brazil, scoring six goals from four starts, per WhoScored.com. He will now be expected to translate that form into goals for Madrid on the big occasion.
James is undoubtedly the talent of the moment but it may take him time to have the kind of influence Ronaldo holds for the team.
Gareth Bale has shown you can progress quickly and develop into the role of a Galactico, but the 23-year-old might struggle to live up to expectations, especially if he plays in the place of the ever-popular Angel Di Maria.
Atletico will know he has a point to prove, and they will have to pin down the silky attacking force in the second leg.
Diego Simeone Respects Angel Di Maria
Diego Simeone has spoken of his admiration for Angel Di Maria after the winger failed to start the first leg of the Super Cup.
In what could be perceived as mind games, the Atletico boss claimed Di Maria is the Galacticos' biggest threat and should have played against his team, per SuperSport.com:
In the first-half, despite defending close to our area, we had three or four chances to score a goal. The second half was more or less the same, with a little bit better play from Madrid with the introduction of Di Maria.
That was logical because he is the best player they have. It is an important draw and allows us to play a for the trophy at home with a 50-50 chance. It is my opinion that Di Maria is Madrid's best player for sure. His ability to change games in the middle of the park helps everyone else to play well.
Ancelotti poured scorn on Simeone's assessment and criticised his opposite number for failing to hail both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale:
"He has forgotten the World Player of the Year and Bale, who scored in Lisbon. He has forgotten many players, but it is true Di Maria is one of many great players we have."
The second leg is sure to be just as close an affair as the first. Atletico are still brimming with confidence after their unlikely La Liga title victory last year, and their pride will drive them forward on Friday.
Many felt Real would defeat Atletico in the first game but without a 100-percent-fit Ronaldo they struggled.
If Simeone can organise his team in the manner of the past 12 months, his side can capture this trophy and put a marker down for the season ahead. The addition of Mario Mandzukic will give Simeone a different kind of threat up front, and it may be possible Atletico do not miss the goalscoring talents of the departed Diego Costa.
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