Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid: Factors That Will Shape Super Cup 2nd Leg
Raul Garcia's late goal at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night was typical Atletico Madrid. Trailing to James Rodriguez's strike, Diego Simeone's men huffed and puffed, not giving up until the end and eventually getting their reward from a corner.
They drew the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup by the same 1-1 score line last season, albeit against Barcelona, before losing out on the trophy via away goals after a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou in the second leg. And on last season's evidence, few would be inclined to go against Atleti's chances of clinching a goalless draw on Friday night.
However, this is a Real Madrid team packed with goals, which sets up an intriguing encounter at the Vicente Calderon. Here are some factors which could shape the decisive Super Cup fixture.
ESPN journalist Nicholas Rigg confirmed on Twitter that Cristiano Ronaldo trained well on Thursday and is available for Friday's clash.
Carlo Anclotti confirms Cristiatno Ronaldo trained well today and will be available for tomorrow’s Super Cup. #realmadrid— Nicholas Rigg (@nicholasrigg) agosto 21, 2014
The Portuguese star was forced off at the half-time break in the first leg, but this news would suggest it was nothing too serious and not an extension of the injury problems which plagued him at the end of last season.
How ready he will be is a different matter.
Having scored two goals in the European Super Cup win over Sevilla, it seemed his physical condition wasn't in question, but it will once again be back in the spotlight when he trots onto the pitch against Atleti.
Even though Madrid can call on Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and many others if Ronaldo does struggle, Madrid's No. 7 still matters.
Griezmann's Home Debut
In a defensive move from Diego Simeone, new signing Antoine Griezmann was left on the bench at the Bernabeu. Young Saul Niguez played in an unaccustomed wide role instead.
Griezmann was introduced in the second half, although he had little time to show why Atletico forked out so much money to bring him in from Real Sociedad.
At the Vicente Calderon, things are likely to be a little different.
Simeone should favour a slightly more attacking team, which at very least should mean a start for the French international.
It will then be up to Griezmann—who was also linked with Real Madrid this summer, per Ben Jefferson of the Express—to provide the attacking spark in an Atleti side more often known for their shape, strength and concentration levels.
Carlo's Use of Di Maria
Carlo Ancelotti confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Angel Di Maria has asked to leave Real Madrid and rejected the club's offer of a new contract, per ESPN's Dermot Corrigan.
Ancelotti: "Di María has asked to leave & rejected offer from club. [But] if he does not find future solution he stays no problem"— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) agosto 21, 2014
However, the Italian added that he is happy to include the Argentine over the course of the next season if a solution is not found.
What does that mean for Friday night's Super Cup match against Atleti?
Despite Di Maria's desire to leave the club only becoming official news to the general public now, Ancelotti must have known this for some time.
With this knowledge, he still chose to play him in the first leg.
Having now made it public, will he keep him involved at the Vicente Calderon? Di Maria offers something different to Madrid—energy, a spark. They would certainly benefit from his presence against Atletico, but will Ancelotti stick with him?
Atletico's Set Plays
It was no surprise to see Atletico equalise late in the first leg courtesy of a set play.
David Cartlidge of beIN Sports commented after Raul Garcia's finish that they scored 17 goals from corners last season.
Corners and free-kicks will once again be a source of chances for Simeone's men at the Vicente Calderon.
With Mario Mandzukic leading the attack, plus Diego Godin and Miranda striding forward from the back, Los Blancos will have to be switched on for every set piece—something they didn't manage at the Bernabeu.
Substitutes to Change a Game?
After busy summers on both sides of Madrid, Real and Atleti can both lay claim to having game-changing options on the bench, which you'd expect from two clubs competing for La Liga and the Champions League.
Diego Simeone's side are likely to keep things tight, meaning spaces may not open up until the second half, as seen at the Bernabeu. Therefore, how Carlo Ancelotti uses his expensive squad could become one of the more important facets of this matchup.
James Rodriguez came off the bench to score on Tuesday. Madrid will again look to the likes of the Colombian, Angel Di Maria and Isco to offer solutions if they are struggling to find the breakthrough—provided none of them are handed starts.
Meanwhile, Atleti used Antoine Griezmann and new striker Raul Jimenez as subs on Tuesday. The latter is likely to begin Friday’s match, but Simeone will still have options from the bench if the Rojiblancos look like they need a spark.
Unfortunately, they won’t be able to summon the suspended Arda Turan.