Champions League holders Real Madrid take on Europa League winners in the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje on Tuesday night.
The traditional European curtain-raiser has been given an added dose of intrigue as Jose Mourinho faces his old club in a competitive fixture for the first time since leaving the Bernabeu in 2013, while Zinedine Zidane is still basking in the glory of managing the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles in the modern era.
With Real looking so strong (both domestically and in Europe), it is no surprise then that the majority of this lineup comes from the team from Spain.
David de Gea (Man United) – But for a late mishap in 2015, De Gea could have been on the opposite side of this divide. Instead, he remains Man United’s model of consistency and one of the goalkeepers in the world continues to ply his trade in the Premier League. As much as Zidane likes Keylor Navas, De Gea is the better option.
Antonio Valencia (Man United) – An industrious winger has transformed into one of the best right-backs in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons. Valencia may be starting to get on a bit at 32 but he will still be just as important to Mourinho this season as he was in the last.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) – More often than not can cross that line between defensive master and walking red card, Ramos is an extremely intelligent passer from the back and has popped up with vital goals on more than one occasion.
Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) – Having finally seen off the challenge of Pepe, Varane is ready to establish himself as an undisputed world-class defender. Consistently linked with a move to Man United, there is more chance of Zidane building his defence around the French international.
Marcelo (Real Madrid) – Underrated for so long, but Marcelo is finally being recognised as one of the best full-backs around. Either bombing forward or tracking back, the Brazilian’s passing and overall movement but him way ahead of whoever will be starting on the left side of Man United’s defence on Tuesday.
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) – So laid back he’s almost horizontal at times, the level of concentration and orchestration that Kroos displays in the Real Madrid is phenomenal. Where frustration threatened to get the better of him under Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez, under Zidane he had flourished.
Paul Pogba (Man United) – The £89m man showed flashes of his talent last season in a squad that struggled domestically, but there is a world class player in there on the verge of breaking out and living up to his massive potential. Shades it ahead of Ander Herrera and Casemiro.
Luka Modric (Real Madrid) – Another player who benefits from Casemiro carrying out the hard graft behind him, but no less of an effective player because of it. In fact, that freedom of movement allows Modric to be a source of creativity for so many Real attacks.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) – Mourinho has arbitrarily decided to make Bale the centre of attention with some leading comments relating to transfer interest in the Welsh international. His motivation for that aside, Bale (when fit) is one of the best forwards in the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) – Arguably the best player in the world right now (“arguably” being code for “please don’t start that debate in the comments”), the way in which Ronaldo has adapted his game to manage what would normally be a decline has been remarkable. A different player to that of three years ago, but no less deadly.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) – Benzema might operate at a level just below the pantheon of the top strikers in the game, but his longevity in this Real Madrid team is to be commended. A one-in-two record is a solid (if unspectacular) return in his eight years in the Spanish capital but he is probably still a more accomplished striker than Man United’s new signing Romelu Lukaku at this point in their respective careers.
Read More About: Antonio Valencia, Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo, david de gea, europa league, gareth bale, jose mourinho, karim benzema, luka modric, Man United, marcelo, Paul Pogba, raphael varane, Real Madrid, sergio ramos, toni kroos, uefa super cup, zinedine zidane