Real Madrid's high-profile summer signings will be the cynosure of all eyes as Spanish giants take on Sevilla in European football's annual curtain-raiser tonight
Cardiff: World Cup sensation James Rodriguez is in line to make his Real Madrid debut when the European champions tackle Europa League winners Sevilla in today's all-Spanish UEFA Super Cup in Cardiff.Madrid look even stronger this season after an extravagant close-season recruitment drive.
Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during a training session recently and James Rodriguez. Pics/Getty Images
Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Keylor Navas arrived at the Bernabeu after impressing at the World Cup and all are in line to feature at the Cardiff City Stadium. The first glimpse of 80-million-euro playmaker Rodriguez in a Madrid shirt is keenly anticipated after he dazzled for Colombia in Brazil, scoring six goals to win the Golden Boot.
With the 23-year-old joining Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in the Spanish capital, Madrid now possess three of the four most expensive players of all-time. The trio could grace a pitch together for the first time in Cardiff, but like Kroos, who arrived after starring in Germany's World Cup triumph, Rodriguez is short of fitness and unlikely to start.
The pair only returned to training last week and coach Carlo Ancelotti has admitted that his players are some way short of peak condition. The Super Cup is one of six trophies that Madrid could win this season, but they are still searching for their first pre-season victory after two defeats and a draw on their tour of the United States.
One player who seems certain to start is Welsh forward Bale, who was born and raised in Cardiff and went to school just four miles (6.4 kilometres) from today's match venue.
Dream come true, says Bale
The 25-year-old is relishing the prospect of playing in front of his home crowd. "I knew the Super Cup would be played in Cardiff a good 18 months ago," Bale told Spanish newspaper Marca. "When I came to Real Madrid it was always a dream of mine that if we could win the Champions League, we could play in Cardiff. Now that dream has come true."
Sevilla beat Benfica on penalties in the Europa League final in Turin to win the competition for the third time in nine seasons. They have lost influential Croatian playmaker Ivan Rakitic to Barcelona, while Stephane Mbia — scorer of a decisive injury-time goal against Valencia in the Europa League semi-finals — has returned to parent club Queens Park Rangers.
But Spanish forward Iago Aspas could make his debut against Madrid, having joined from Liverpool on a season-long loan.
No of Super Cup trophies both Real and Sevilla have
No of times Real have beaten Sevilla in 172 clashes
In Pictures: Sex scandals involving Indian politicians
Photos: Abhishek Bachchan and Farah Khan at Boman Irani's birthday bash
Spotted: Shah Rukh Khan at Morani's bungalow in Mumbai
Spotted: Sonam Kapoor and sister Rhea at Mumbai airport
Photos: Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor get 'Befikre' on 'Super Dancer'