The beautiful Philip II Arena in Macedonia will host a titanic showdown between Champions League Winners Real Madrid and Europa League winners Manchester United as they battle it out for the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday evening.
Madrid is appearing in this Cup for the second time in succession after defending their Champions League trophy, and it’s their third appearance in four seasons. United, on the other hand, will be making their fourth overall appearance, albeit via winning the Europa League trophy this time.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will want to continue from where they left off by defending the title they won last year after defeating Sevilla in the final. Los Blancos seem definite favourites coming into this one and will want another trophy in their cabinet after a trophy-laden 2016/17 season.
For Jose Mourinho’ side, an early season cup win will be a massive boost going into their league opener against West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday. The Red Devils will be determined to hit the ground running following a poor league campaign by their own lofty standards, where they finished sixth place. However, a haul of both the Carling Cup and Europa League title served to mitigate an otherwise difficult season for Mourinho’s charges.
Looking at the history of the Cup, Los Blancos has been the most dominant of the two sides, having won it three times (2002, 2014 and 2016) and finishing runners up twice (1998 and 2000). The Red Devils, on the other hand, have won it once (1991) and like Madrid, have finished runners up twice (1999 and 2008).
The coaching stuff at Madrid will mull over the fitness of star Cristiano Ronaldo, with the latter having recently returned to training over the weekend after a long break due to his participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup. Speculation has been rife about CR7’s future at the club, but for now it looks like the star is set to remain at the Bernabeu. New signings Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos all participated in pre-season friendlies and are vying to start against the Red Devils.
For United, Eric Bailly is out through suspension and Phil Jones is also out after falling foul of UEFA’s anti-doping regulations. Luke Shaw, Ashely Young and Marcos Rojo are out as they still continue their rehabilitation from injuries, while Jesse Lingard and Sergio Romero remain doubts. Three new signings are on course to start as Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof are fit and have featured impressively in the pre-season games.
Author: Takalani Lufhugu