Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid
Watch the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sky Sports 5 at 10pm on Tuesday
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid met on five occasions last season, culminating in their Champions League final clash, a match Los Blancos eventually won 4-1 following extra time. The city rivals will also commence their 2014-15 campaigns by crossing swords in the Spanish Super Cup, the first leg of which takes place at the Bernabeu on Tuesday evening.
Come May next year, neither club’s season will be defined by what happens in this tie – in Spain, this trophy is pretty much tantamount to the Charity Shield in England – but, make no mistake, both Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone will demand nothing less than 100 per cent from Real and Atletico respectively. There will be blood.
Los Rojiblancos ended the Real-Barcelona stranglehold on the La Liga crown last season, a remarkable achievement. And for much of their Champions League final bout with Real in Lisbon, Atletico punched pound for pound with their illustrious, heavyweight neighbours. The scoreline flattered Ancelotti’s men.
However, whereas Los Merengues have strengthened an already star-studded squad by recruiting the likes of James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos during the summer, Atletico’s transfer market activity has centred on which players have left, rather than which have joined. Indeed, their talisman Diego Costa has swapped the red and white stripes for the blue of Chelsea, while Thibaut Courtois has also gone to Stamford Bridge following a four-year loan spell in the Spanish capital. Adrian, David Villa, Filipe Luis and Manquillo are other influential players to have left.
Of course, it would be churlish to underestimate Simeone’s charges, despite the departures of some of their key men. After all, the likes of Costa and Manquillo ended last season with the value of their stock much higher than when it started, which can be attributed in no short measure to Simeone’s stewardship, and being part of a cohesive, well-drilled Atletico side. Furthermore, the Argentinian has brought in some quality players, not least Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic.
Still, one gets the sense that Los Rojiblancos will be hard pushed to repeat last season’s heroics this time round. Whereas Real have made a couple of big-money touch-ups, it’s been wholesale change for Atletico and it could take time for Simeone’s new-look squad to gel. In addition, Ancelotti’s side looked ready to take on the world in the Uefa Super Cup last week, a trophy they clinched via a 2-0 victory over Sevilla in Cardiff with – yup, you guessed it – Cristiano Ronaldo scoring both goals.
Gareth Bale and Pepe could miss out for last season’s Copa del Rey and Champions League victors, but otherwise Ancelotti has pretty much a full-strength squad at his disposal. And the Italian is likely to take an aggressive approach to this game, with the objective of effectively putting the tie to bed prior to the second leg at the Vicente Calderon on Friday.
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid betting
Los Blancos are no bigger than 4/7 in the match betting for the first leg at the Bernabeu, while the draw is available at 10/3 in places and the visitors are a standout 11/2 with Betfair. Meanwhile, if you reckon the Ballon d’Or hero Ronaldo will open the scoring, he’s a top-priced 11/4 with Bet365, which looks very fair indeed.
However, Karim Benzema impressed for France during this summer’s World Cup and the 26-year-old, who remains the sole out-and-out, first-team striker at Real, is a more appealing option from a value standpoint at 5/1 in Paddy Power’s first goalscorer market.
Tip: Karim Benzema in the first goalscorer market – 5/1 (Paddy Power)