Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid Super Cup preview: Diego Simeone eases pressure on Atleti who have spent 'as much on eight players as Real did on two'

 

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The Independent Online

Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone has moved to ease the pressure on his side ahead of Tuesday night's Spanish Super Cup first-leg against neighbours Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

The Spanish capital rivals will meet for the first time since their feisty Champions League final meeting in Lisbon in May, which Los Blancos won 4-1 after extra time, thanks to Atleti's first La Liga triumph in 18 years and Madrid's Copa del Rey final success over Barcelona.

Simeone is keen to add a trophy Los Colchoneros have not won since 1985 to the Vicente Calderon trophy cabinet but says the big difference in spending power between the two clubs gives Atleti's more illustrious neighbours the advantage on the eve of the new La Liga season.

"We signed eight players for €95 million, they [Madrid] signed two for the same amount. That's the difference," said the Argentine in his press conference on Monday.

World Cup stars James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos make up the bulk of Madrid's summer spending so far, while Keylor Navas has also arrived from Levante to compete with Iker Casillas for the No 1 spot. Atleti have countered the departures of key players such as Diego Costa, Felipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois by signing stars including Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic, Jan Oblak, Raul Jiménez, Guilherme Siqueira and Miguel Moya.

The additions, as well as Atleti's success in keeping hold of stars such as defenders Diego Godin and Miranda and talented midfielder Koke, have left Simone's men in good shape to cause Barcelona and Madrid, the two pre-season favourites to take Atleti's title, plenty of problems this season - starting in the two-legged Super Cup.

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James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos (below) have arrived at Real Madrid

Simeone, who guided Atleti to within minutes of their first European Cup triumph last season, has played down his side's chances of a repeat performance this season, however, and says the main objective will just to ensure Los Colchoneros finish in a top-four position that would ensure Champions League qualification.

"Regarding the league we'll see how things go," he said. "We'll have to fight against Sevilla, Valencia and Athletic to get into the Champions League." On Tuesday night's opponents he said: "Real has improved. Kroos has given them a lot more potential in midfield, more balance, more football... Bale is much better. They're a far superior team than last year."

Ancelotti's side have hit the ground running after clinching La Decima last season. A comfortable 2-0 victory, thanks to a brace of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, handed them the first of a possible historic six trophies this season in the Uefa Super Cup against Sevilla in Cardiff last week.

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Midfielder Angel Di Maria didn't play a minute in the Welsh capital, adding weight to reports that the Argentine is destined for a big-money move away from the Bernabeu with Manchester United reported to be leading the chase for his signature after Paris St Germain withdrew their interest. Di Maria impressed for the full 90 minutes in a friendly against Fiorentina in Poland on Saturday night, however, and is available for selection against Atleti.

Costa Rica World Cup star Navas featured for the first time since his arrival from Levante but Ancelotti confirmed that Iker Casillas will start in goal on Tuesday night. The Madrid boss refused to confirm any other starters for the match but Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane all returned to training on Monday.

The main question mark surrounds the role World Cup Golden Boot winner Rodriguez will play this season with Ancelotti hinting that he will stick with the 4-3-3 formation that led Madrid to Copa del Rey and Champions League glory in his first season in charge. He said: "I'm not thinking about changing the system from last season." The Columbian has shown glimpses of his quality in pre-season but a gentle transition into first-team affairs seems likely with his manager saying that he "needs to adapt to his new life, his new teammates."

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Mario Mandzukic was signed for £18m from Bayern Munich

Atleti provided plenty of problems for their neighbours last season, taking four points from a possible six in El Derbi en route to the title and coming within minutes of causing a shock in the Champions League and Ancelotti is expecting more of the same in the two matches over the next four days. "There is no favourite team for this game," he said. "The game against Atletico will be as hard as it was last year."

The second leg takes place at the Vicente Calderon on Friday night just three days before both teams kick-off their La Liga campaigns.

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