Real Madrid backup goalkeeper Kiko Casilla says that playing next Tuesday's UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla will be the fulfillment of a dream for him.
With Los Blancos' first choice Keylor Navas still recovering from a foot operation carried out in early June, Casilla looks sure to start for the Champions League holders against last season's Europa League winners Sevilla, in the showpiece fixture at Trondheim's Lerkendal Stadion on Aug. 9.
This will be a reward for Casilla, who joined Madrid's youth system as a youngster, left for Espanyol in 2007 without playing a senior game, and returned to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 12 months ago as cover for Costa Rica international Navas.
The 29-year-old played just seven times during the 2015-16 season, when Navas was rested for games against relatively easier opposition, with his chances to shine also curtailed by Madrid being thrown out of the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player.
Speaking to Marca as he prepared for what will be by far the most high-profile game of his career, the Catalan said that he had been hoping for such an opportunity since he first set out to become a professional player.
"I have dreamed since I was 14-years-old about playing a game like the Supercup final," Casilla said. "I really want the game to come now, to play as well as possible and to take the trophy. To play a game like this is something you dream about since you were young. But I must keep working hard now through the days to come."
The timing of the game comes a little awkwardly for Madrid, given Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe are still on their post-Euro 2016 summer holidays, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos are just returning to training, and Karim Benzema has been unable to play at all during preseason due to a hip complaint. Meanwhile Sevilla have been motoring during their warm-up games, with new coach Jorge Sampaoli incorporating a whole host of new signings.
Casilla said there could be no excuses for Madrid, who had to focus on winning every trophy they played for.
"The final comes in the date scheduled, and that cannot be an excuse," he said. "We have worked well these days, and now comes the moment of truth. The team will front up. Madrid always must go out to win every trophy they play for. And we are favourites as this is the best club in the world. Sevilla will not give us anything for free, they are a big team and we must play with intensity or it will go badly for us."
Casilla said that Madrid's preseason International Champions Cup outings in the United States, which saw a 3-2 defeat to Paris Saint Germain, 3-2 victory over Chelsea and 1-0 win against Bayern Munich, had gone well for him personally and the team.
"The preseason was positive, even though we did not play well against PSG," he said. "We have now got up to a good level, and we won the final games. It is always worth playing for Madrid, not just for Tuesday's game, but just for the experience. I am now looking forward to being back in Madrid and continuing working."