The time for experimenting is over. Everything we have worked for this pre-season has been in build up to Friday’s monumental clash with Inter Milan at the Stade de Louis II in Monaco, for the UEFA Super Cup. Kick-off is at 20:45 GMT+1 KO.
Atlético’s starting line-up for the match is still somewhat of a mystery, as manager Quique Sánchez Flores has insisted that he will not give any hints to the mighty Nerazzurri, leaving us all in the dark.
Last Sunday, it appeared a virtual certainty that Tiago would not be fit for the game, as Quique declared the Portugese midfielder lacked match fitness after arriving so late to Atleti’s pre-season. Tiago, on the other hand, continued to insist that he would do all he could to be ready come game-time. Mind games by Quique? Perhaps.
If Tiago isn’t fit enough to play, then it’s likely that Spanish midfielder Raúl García will step in. The 23 year-old shone last season in our run to the Europa League final after eligibility rules rendered Tiago cup-tied for all of Atlético’s European games.
The news that all rojiblancos wanted to hear is that both Diego Forlán and Sergio Agüero are fit to start up-front for Atlético. The forwards will be looking to get off the mark early this season and wreak havoc in the Inter defence.
Rafa Benitez is expected to field the same XI that won the Italian Supercoppa last weekend. It’s no coincidence that it’s the same XI that lifted the Champions League trophy in May against Bayern Munich, then under José Mourinho.
Against Roma in the Supercoppa, the Nerazzurri fielded a 4-2-3-1 formation. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar in place behind defenders Maicon, Lucio, Samuel and Chivu. Midfielders Cambiasso, Zanetti, Eto’o (a natural striker playing on the wing), Sneijder and Pandev; with Milito serving as the focal point of Inter’s attack.
Inter will be looking to make it two for two in Super Cup victories this summer, as they seek to replicate Barcelona’s record achievement of six titles in a single year.
Atleti will try to exploit the perceived weakness of full-backs Samuel and Lucio, who are known to struggle against smaller, more agile forwards. Quique might go with Kun in an advanced position at the top with Forlán maybe playing a more withdrawn striker role, looking to link-up with his Argentine counterpart whenever he can.
Should defensive midfielder Paulo Assunção start for Atlético, he will be given the job of keeping tabs on Wesley Sneijder, the midfield maestro who shone en-route to the Champions League crown last year.
Both Forlán and Sneijder will be looking to stake their claim as top contenders for FIFA’s new Golden Ball, the trophy awarded to the best player of the year. A solid performance by either player could do wonders for their chances.
Our boys will travel to France on Thursday morning, and after a round of press conferences, will have an evening training session at the site of the final.
Atleti are unbeaten against Inter in the clubs’ four unofficial encounters. This will be the first time they meet in an official match. The Colchoneros held the Milanese side to a tie in their first meeting in 1964, and have beaten them in three successive contests, most recently in the 1997-98 season.
Atlético’s 21-player match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea and Joel
Defenders: Ujfalusi, Perea, Valera, Godín, Domínguez, Filipe and Antonio López
Midfielders: Camacho, Suárez, Assunção, García, Tiago, Mérida, Reyes, Simão and Jurado
Forwards: Agüero, Forlán and Diego Costa.
Inter’s 21-player match selection:
Goalkeepers: Cesar, Castellazzi and Orlandoni
Defenders: Cordoba, Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel and Chivu
Midfielders: Stankovic, Sneijder, Muntari, Mariga, Cambiasso, Obi and Coutinho
Forwards: Eto’o, Milito, Pandev and Biabiany
Swiss referee Massimo Busacca and staff have been appointed by UEFA for the match.
Just as Quique said, “this title should be considered an epilogue and a reward for the successes of last season.”
“We should play the game as such. It’s a celebration, a festival for all atléticos.”
“No matter what happens, on Monday we begin a new Liga campaign, and with or without the title, we will play it with the same level of excitement.”
The AtléticoFans Prediction League kicks off with this first official match of the season. Don’t forget to leave your prediction!