All-stars against minnows? Globetrotters against Andalusian upstarts? Perhaps those narratives undersell the level of competitiveness of tonight’s European Super Cup final – but only slightly. The 24-point gap between the sides in last season’s La Liga tells its own story – and that gap has become a chasm over the ensuing summer.
Real look set to field the most expensive strike force of all time, with £80 million plus men Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo spearheading a side whose creativity will come from James Rodriguez – a snip at £63 million. Behind that trio will sit the decidedly attack-minded Toni Kroos – a veritable bargain-basement purchase at £30 million from Bayern Munich.
Sevilla’s presence at the Millennium Stadium is something of a surprise. A fading force in recent years, Unai Emery’s side ground their way to the Europa League trophy beating a skilful Benfica side 4-2 in the final in Turin. Emery is known for his ability to bring organisation to teams on a budget and he has applied the lessons learned during six years at cash-strapped Almeria and Valencia to Sevilla.
The scale of Emery’s task in wresting the Super Cup from Los Blancos is amply demonstrated by Sevilla’s anaemia in the transfer market. Their best player and most creative force from last season, Ivan Rakitic has departed to Barcelona, and the only other attacking standout Diego Perotti moved to Genoa in July. In recent years, huge profits have been made on Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas – without the accompanying reinvestment.
Real, infamously, have gone through a period of paucity in Europe in spite of their yearly monster transfer outlays. The 2014 Champions League was their first in 12 years, a period in which Sevilla won two European trophies. Carlo Ancelotti’s side will expect to add a second European title in the space of three months in South Wales this evening – though as always, they must beware overconfidence.
KICK-OFF: Tuesday, 7.45pm
Sevilla 2 (Bacca 2) 2 Real Madrid 1 (Ronaldo), La Liga, March 2014
Real Madrid 7 (Bale 2, Ronaldo 3, Benzema 2) Sevilla 3 (Rakitic 2, Bacca), La Liga, October 2013
Real Madrid 4 (Benzema, Ronaldo 3) Sevilla 1 (Del Moral), La Liga, February 2013
1 Super Cup victory each for Real Madrid and Sevilla, in 2002 and 2006 respectively
4 Super Cup between teams from the same country after 1990, 1993 and 2006
90 wins for Real Madrid in 172 total meetings between the teams, compared to Sevilla’s 53
8-0 The score by which Real beat Sevilla in the 1957/58 European Champions Clubs' Cup quarter-final.
Real Madrid to win: 1.16
Sevilla to win: 4.5
TV: Sky Sports 5 and ITV4 7.45pm