James Rodríguez and Toni Kroos will make their debuts, likely alongside a now fully fit Cristiano Ronaldo, as Real Madrid get set to kick off the new season by fielding a star-studded lineup in the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla. The official curtain raiser to the European season in Wales’s Cardiff City Stadium will be the first opportunity for the Champions League winners to showcase their expanded collection of world-class players and for manager Carlo Ancelotti to attempt to squeeze them into a balanced lineup.
After finally lifting a long-sought 10th European Cup in May, Madrid went out and spent in excess of €100 million on acquiring two of the stars of the World Cup, Colombian Rodríguez and German champion Kroos. Both are now in full training after their exploits in Brazil and added to an already gluttonous amount of talent that includes the two most expensive players of all time in Ronaldo and Cardiff-native Gareth Bale. Still recovering from an injury that hampered him during the World Cup, Ronaldo’s on-field time during preseason has so far been limited to just a cameo appearance against former club Manchester United in the U.S. earlier this month. Ancelotti confirmed that the Portuguese was now ready and able to join his new teammates in the Welsh capital.
“Cristiano has been training at full intensity without any problems,” he said, according to Spanish publication AS. “He has done everything he needed to be ready for the game. The problems he had last year are gone. I think he will start [the season] well. Kroos and James will play.”
As well as Rodríguez and Kroos, Real Madrid have also added Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas to their ranks. Although the club’s No.1 in La Liga last season, Diego Lopez, has moved onto AC Milan, there again remains a big question over which goalkeeper will be first choice in what competition. After starting in the Champions League last season, Iker Casillas will begin the Super Cup. Madrid’s spending has also led to much conjecture over the futures of Ángel di María and Sami Khedira, whose roles are now under threat. Both, though, are included in the squad for Tuesday’s encounter.
While Real Madrid have been able to splash the cash to enhance their squad, Sevilla’s victory in the Europa League has led to a now familiar scenario of one of their key performers moving on. Man of the Match in their win over Benfica in Turin Ivan Rakitic has joined Barcelona, leaving manager Unai Emery with a major hole to fill. Emery will also have to do without the services this season of Stephane Mbia and Marko Marin, after their loan spells came to an end, while there is strong speculation that Spain international left-back Alberto Moreno is on the verge of joining Liverpool, although he will feature in Cardiff.
Last season, Real Madrid showcased their devastating attack by blitzing Sevilla 7-3 at the Bernabeu, but Sevilla got their revenge with a 2-1 win at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán in March. And Emery is hoping his men can perform a similar upset this time around, although is well aware of Madrid’s qualities.
“Real Madrid are the favorites, that's obvious,” he said, reports AS. “Our chances are based on our qualities and our competitiveness. We want to take the game to them but whether they will let us is another matter. This Madrid side has the potential to demand more of us defensively for 90 minutes than in attack. We can't leave spaces open because of their speed; Cristiano, Benzema and Bale. We also can't give James any room, or let Modric or Kroos dictate play.”
Kickoff time: 2.45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go.