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Bale can help Real to Super Cup victory

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid
BT Sport 2, 8pm Wednesday


Gareth Bale’s come-and-get-me plea at the end of the Champions League final fell on deaf ears with Cristiano Ronaldo departing instead, leaving the Welshman to finally emerge from his strike partner’s shadow and kick off 2018-19 by guiding Real Madrid past rivals Atletico to Super Cup glory.

It’s a new season and a new dawn at the Bernabeu where Bale has suddenly been handed a licence to take centre stage following CR7’s exit to Italy.

Ronaldo, and outgoing boss Zinedine Zidane, will be much missed in the Spanish capital, but probably not by Bale who, for the first time since leaving Tottenham in 2013, has become the anointed one with new coach Julen Lopetegui building his side around the 29-year-old in pre-season.

And it’s been an impressive pre-season for both player and club. Bale, carrying on where he left off in May’s Champions League final, has scored three times and provided an assist in victories over Juventus, Roma and Milan and Real can build on those performances by winning the first Madrid derby of the season in Estonia.

There’s actually going to be a fairly familiar look to both sides in Tallinn.

Ronaldo has gone while Thomas Lemar has joined Atletico but other than that punters can expect similar line-ups to the ones who clinched Europe’s two major knockout prizes in May.

World Cup finalists Luka Modric of Real and Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, undercooked after late returns to training, may not be central figures – indeed both could start on the bench – but summer changes have been kept to a minimum.

Atletico’s summer ended with a 1-0 defeat by Inter in a match in which Diego Simeone’s men didn’t muster an effort on target until the final five minutes.

Their pre-season campaign has been ordinary at best although Real know full well that Simeone’s brilliantly drilled and organised outfit – once again they boasted the meanest defence in La Liga in 2017-18 – will take some breaking down.

Atletico pipped Real by three points in the league and as an indication of how little there is to choose between these two superpowers, both matches last term ended in draws. The stalemate is no bigger than 11-5 and three of the last five Super Cups have been all-square at 90 minutes.

Lopetegui becomes the fifth different Real boss to shackle Simeone and he has plenty to prove after being sacked by Spain on the eve of the World Cup.

Their approach is unlikely to change dramatically although Marco Asensio, Isco and Bale should all enjoy responsibilities not handed them during the Ronaldo era.

Real merit favouritism because they look ahead of Atletico based on pre-season performances.

Each of the last eight Super Cups produced at least two goals – and Atletico, not renowned for their scoring prowess, have been in a couple of those.

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Expert verdict
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