The Calderón lived up to its translation in Wednesday night's Supercup first leg; the capital is in the grip of a blistering spell of weather that conditioned the contest between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona, splitting ascendency neatly into two 45-minute spells. The home side, aware that pressure is the best form of defense against the pass masters, was out of the blocks like a tornado, destroying Barça's ability to move the ball around comfortably. A packed Atlético center reduced Leo Messi to a spectator and wide men Alexis and Pedro to hopeful punts into the area, hardly a great strength of probably the shortest side in La Liga.
The attacking potency of its opponent thus negated, Atlético sought to hit on the counter attack and on 11 minutes a fluid, one-touch move left Arda free on the left and David Villa ghosting into space in front of goal, where he unleashed an unstoppable volley in a timely reminder to his former employer of his best position. There was no contriteness from the Spain international, who celebrated a splendid strike as well he should.
Atlético had the measure of Barcelona in the opening period but the second was a different story. Messi did not emerge from the tunnel and it was later confirmed his niggling muscle injury had returned. Since pulling up against PSG last April, the Argentina star has completed just one full game out of 27. It is a concern for Barcelona, but not one without a solution: Cesc was introduced and Barça's shape became instantly more recognizable. With Cesc playing in the position de mode, the false nine, Barça finally got its foot on the ball and Atlético was chasing shadows.
The swing of the pendulum reached its zenith when Neymar took the field with half an hour to play. Atlético's early industry had taken its toll and the fresh legs of the Brazil forward, his bag of tricks under wraps thus far into his Spanish soirée, pulled the back line to breaking point with some good old-fashioned off-the-ball movement. Just minutes after his introduction, he crept in at the far post and rose virtually unchallenged to power a header past Thibaut Courtois; La Liga probably won't see too many of those. Barcelona pinged more crosses into the box in one match than it normally does in half a season. Gerardo Martino's blueprint has yet to be fully colored in, but Barça's use of its flanks was a stark removal from its usual ploy of a dizzying array of passes to pick its way through the middle.
Atlético knows exactly what it needs to do next Wednesday to lift the trophy: exactly the same as it did for 45 minutes in the sultry capital. It is to be hoped that the air is cooler in Catalonia for the sake of the spectacle, and the health of the players. Both sides were practically walking by the time the whistle announced boiling point had been reached.