Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes star-studded Supercopa opponents Real Madrid will be even stronger next season and has once again played down his side’s chances of retaining their Primera Division title.
Atletico caused a major stir last season as they broke the Real-Barcelona duopoly to become Spanish champions for the first time since 1996.
Simeone’s men also reached the Champions League final, going down 4-1 to Real after extra-time, but a summer of change at the Vicente Calderon has led to question marks about whether Atletico will be able to replicate their success next season.
The likes of Diego Costa, David Villa, Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis have bid farewell to the club, with Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic, Jan Oblak and Raul Jimenez among those brought in.
It remains to be seen if Simeone can work his magic again, but with Real and Barca both spending big this summer to bring in players such as Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, the Argentinian is well aware of the task facing his side.
When asked about his objectives ahead of Tuesday’s Supercopa first leg against Real at the Bernabeu, Simeone said: "The objective, talking about the Supercopa, is to try to get the game to where we want it, and obviously win it.
"Regarding the league. We have four different players with respect to last year. It’s a major change, because their characteristics are not the same and the adaptation time is very short.
"We’ll see throughout the season where the team can get to, but right now our reality is to look at Sevilla, Valencia, Athletic (Bilbao)…who are the teams with whom we will try to fight for a place in the Champions League."
He added of his side’s summer spending compared to Real’s: "We’ve spent 95 million on bringing in seven or eight players, they spent 95m on two.
"Real Madrid have improved, the presence of Kroos gives then even better potential in the middle of the pitch, more stability, balance and passing. What we’ve seen of (Gareth) Bale is much better than when he started, which makes him more dangerous in attack.
"It’s a better team than last season."
Atletico’s team may have a new look about it next season, but Real coach Carlo Ancelotti expects them to be just as tough.
The Italian, who helped Real win the Champions League and Copa del Rey in his first season at the Bernabeu, said: "Atletico have changed a little because they have signed some big players. Their style has not changed and they will be a difficult rival. As they were last season."
Regarding Tuesday’s Supercopa first leg, Ancelotti confirmed Iker Casillas would start in goal but was giving little else away – including the future of Angel Di Maria.
The Argentina winger has been heavily linked with a move away from Real this summer, with Manchester United reportedly poised with a big-money bid for the 26-year-old.
Asked about Di Maria, Ancelotti said: "Di Maria is available (to play) like all the others. He may or may not start the game and has opportunities, but like everyone else.
”What I won’t do is put out the same team in both legs. One team will play tomorrow and on Friday I will change it a little."
He added: "There are no favourites in this tie. It is a two-leg tie, 180 minutes, and we have to prepare well. The first match will not be decisive but we will try and take the lead and put in a good performance."