A late equaliser to silence the Bernabéu means it’s advantage Atlético ahead of Friday’s Spanish Super Cup second leg, as Diego Simeone’s side take a vital away goal into the traditional start of season clash.
The new look rojiblancos will be returning to the Vicente Calderón for the first time since winning the league title back in May, and can expect a buoyant atmosphere from a capacity crowd on the banks of the River Manzanares.
Kick-off in the capital is set for the later time of 22:30 CET.
After a long summer, a busy transfer window, the World Cup and a typical gruelling Simeone pre-season, Atlético finally got underway on Tuesday, starting where they left off against bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Los Blancos have had the bragging rights over the off-season having won the Champions League in such dramatic circumstances three months ago, but this time it was they who conceded a late equaliser, Raul García striking to cancel out James Rodríguez’s opener moments before.
In a highly tactical battle, competed with all the ferocity we have come to expect from derby matches, 1-1 was probably the most fair of results, although Real were denied a quite obvious penalty late on for handball against Mario Suárez.
Atleti defended with all of the concentration and intensity that earned them so many plaudits last season, and showed their trademark never say die attitude to salvage a draw when it looked as if Carlo Ancelotti’s side had again nicked it from them at the death.
Six players made their debuts in red and white in the first leg, but with marquee signing Antoine Griezmann only a substitute, Jan Oblak not fit enough to start in goal yet, and Arda Turan also injured, it was far from a full strength side that took to the field.
Bar the latter two, Simeone should have a full squad to choose from, although with exits pending, the likes of Emiliano Insúa and Toby Alderweireld may not be involved again.
Press have picked up on the fact that this is currently Atleti’s worst run under Cholo having not won in five – despite the small matter of delivering a league title during that run – and he more than anybody else will be keen to put things right and secure another title, against Real Madrid no less.
The biggest news in the opposite camp concerns the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was forced off at half-time on Tuesday. James Rodríguez, Isco and Ángel di María all had to settle for a place on the bench and would be ready to step in, but the Portuguese talisman returned to full training on Thursday and is fit to start, according to Ancelotti.
“He is available to play and will be able to start the game. All the players are ready but that doesn’t mean I won’t make changes,” he said.
The Italian head coach also insisted that his side are the underdog going into the second leg, predicting a similar encounter to the ones we have seen between him and Simeone since coming into the job a year ago.
“We are used to playing against Atletico and they are used to facing us. I don’t think the style of game will be different, they now have the advantage from their positive result at the Bernabeu but I think it will be the same type of match.”
Ancelotti also confirmed that winger Di María has asked to leave the club. The World Cup runner-up was influential in the Champions League last campaign and sparked Real into life on Tuesday, but for whatever reason appears to have been forced out.
“Di María asked to go in the summer and has rejected an offer from the club,” he said. “The player has to look for a solution. If when the transfer market closes he’s still here, he will work with us like last season and there will be no problem.”
Both teams have the weekend off after the match, but can’t spend too long celebrating or commiserating as their respective league campaigns get underway as soon as Monday. Atleti will be desperate to start their title defence with a win across town at Rayo, whereas Real host newly promoted Cordoba in the Bernabéu.
Simeone will name his matchday squad tomorrow lunchtime, choosing not to do a pre-match press conference on Thursday.