The one-off match for the European Super Cup will be contested between two Spanish sides for the third consecutive year.
When Real Madrid face Sevilla in Norway on Tuesday night, Zinedine Zidane will have had his first name on the team-sheet in his mind days well before the contest. And it’s not who you’d think it would be.
Starting the new campaign in the same way he finished the last one, Zidane will surely make sure Casemiro continues to play a huge role in not only the Super Cup but every piece of silverware Madrid compete for this season.
Ever since the Frenchman took over in January the Brazilian has become a formidable linchpin of Madrid’s glittering midfield.
Casemiro, who spent 2014-15 at FC Porto, has risen from a fringe player under Rafa Benitez to an irreplaceable figure under Zidane.
However, the 24-year-old wasn’t called upon immediately. Only conjuring 20 minutes of the new boss’ first nine league games, it was a turning point that provoked a change.
With Toni Kroos and Luka Modric starting in the centre in a late February loss to Atletico Madrid, the city neighbours constantly cut through the middle en route to a 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Four days later Casemiro was instated in the victory at Levante and after, started every game for the rest of the season with Madrid winning all their remaining La Liga matches. Coincidence? Surely not.
The defence looked more comfortable and the side more confident with an anchor in front of them providing cover and stability — Madrid conceded 11 and scored a superb 39 in the last 12 league matches.
Just an idea of how crucial Casemiro is was the difference he made in the biggest games. He wasn’t involved against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid before becoming integral and both were embarrassing results for Los Blancos.
He then started the last meetings between the sides at the Camp Nou and in the Champions League final, keeping Lionel Messi quiet and starring with a dominant display. Madrid ended up triumphant in both games second time around.
Whilst Casemiro doesn’t sell shirts or grab the attention of the white half of the capital, he is the key.
With many out for Madrid on Tuesday — including Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale — Zidane will be forced to alter his usual formation for the latest chance of glory.
The new approach and midfield is still yet to be set, though there is no question over who will be starting holding, authoritative and continuing his rise as the most steadying influence in the side.