Chelsea have the opportunity to pick up our first trophy of the season by putting to bed Los Colchoneros (or the ‘Mattress Makers’ in English) on Friday night. There lots of interesting subplots within the match, perhaps most notable involves our Chelsea number nine. It would indeed be an amazing story if Fernando Torres can continue his sparkling form against his boyhood club and tuck away a winner. Our strong Spanish contingent should have a good idea about the strengths and weaknesses of Diego Simeone’s side and it’ll be interesting to see if Romeu or Azpilicueta are drafted into the starting eleven.
Perhaps the most telling aspect though is off the pitch with the sadly contrasting financial positions of each club. As Chelsea have splashed big this summer on world talent Atlético Madrid are facing austerity. In June last year Atlético’s massive debts amounted to an eye watering €514 million, a whopping €155 million of which is owed to the taxman. Given the current economic climate in Spain, and across Europe in general, the future of the club looks pretty precarious. Marca have reported that the dire finances have resulted in Atlético missing a scheduled payment to Porto for Falcao’s transfer, the newspaper claiming that only €6.5 million had been paid this year rather than the agreed €9 million.Whereas Chelsea have brought in some of the world’s best players over the summer the ins and outs so far for Atlético are less glamorous. So far in close season they have sold Álvaro Domínguez to Borussia Mönchengladbach for €7 million and Argentine midfielder Eduardo Salvio to Benfica for €11 million. The one player bought in so far for a fee is Getafe’s Cata Diaz who cost €1 million. With the club’s finances clearly being so unsustainable there might not be many more seasons that this talented group of players will stick together – will that be more motivation on Friday evening?
On the pitch it’s a Super Cup showdown that promises to be an intriguing game, not least because of the fine form both sides have shown so far this season. After the first two games Los Colchoneros lie fourth in La Liga, perhaps more importantly, a whole ten places higher than their city rivals at the Santiago Bernabéu. As if we needed any more reasons to be mindful of the striking talents of Radamel Falcao, the Atlético number nine grabbed a superb hat-trick at the weekend against tika-taka specialists and fellow UEFA Cup finalists Athletic Bilbao. You probably already know that Falcao was the leading goalscorer in the Europa League for the second year on the bounce (winning the trophy with both Porto and Atlético) and was only behind the statistical anomalies of Ronaldo and Messi in La Liga. Whilst I’m scaring myself I’ll also mention that his 36 goals in all competitions last season is the record highest amount by any player in a first season playing for the red and white of Atlético. ‘El Tigre’ is the obvious star player we’re going to have to watch out for if we’ve got any chance of getting our hands on the Super Cup for a second time in our history. But what about the others?
At the back they have the reliable and tough tackling Uruguayan Diego Godin who, typically for a South American defender, can play a bit and likes to take no prisoners. Falcao’s strike partner is tricky Spanish forward Adrián López, the number seven contributed 11 goals in their successful Europa League run. Further creative talent centres around Turkish international Arda Turan, a left winger with tight control and impressive dribbling skills. Turan was handed the number ten shirt this season and responded by belting in a long range screamer in Atlético’s opener against Levante. Juanfran is now employed as an attacking right back and his duel with Ashley Cole on that side of the pitch might be a key contest. It’ll be interesting to see if Di Matteo is pragmatic to play Bertrand higher up the pitch again or starts with a more adventurous first eleven. It’s also worth pointing out a familiar name to Chelsea fans as Tiago will be expected to line up in midfield, possibly against his former teammate Frank Lampard. With Terry suspended for this one Frank will be wearing the armband and it would be fitting to see him come out on top in that particular tussle and go on to lift the trophy.