Luka Modric has little time to adapt to his new surroundings as Real Madrid chases its first victory of the season against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday.
Madrid signed Modric from Tottenham on Monday, a day after a shock loss at Getafe continued its worst start in nearly 40 years. Madrid trails Barcelona 3-2 going into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Madrid spent a reported 35 million ($44 million) on the attacking player with its defense, missing Pepe, struggling and having conceded five goals in two straight losses.
Modric has already trained with the team and is ready to step in wherever needed by coach Jose Mourinho, who is unlikely to return out-of-favor midfielder Kaka to the lineup.
"I'm ready, but coach will decide if he use me or not," Modric said. "It's gonna be tough for me to earn a place but that's the challenge, the biggest challenge of my career. Expectations are as high as possible and I'm ready for that."
Mourinho will be hoping Pepe has recovered from a concussion after Raul Arbiol failed to convince in his place. Madrid's performance at Getafe was ineffective and Mourinho may hope Modric's arrival provides some kind of a spur for his side with Barcelona in great form to begin the season.
The Catalans have won all three of their matches and have already opened up a five-point gap to Madrid, the defending champion, in the league.
The Copa del Rey champions would have been in firm control of the Super Cup if not for a late error by goalkeeper Victor Valdes that allowed Madrid to pull back an extra away goal.
"I'm surprised that anyone at this level can doubt Valdes," coach Tito Vilanova said. "The club has four Champions League trophies, and he was decisive in three of those."
Defender Carles Puyol could be available despite a fractured right cheekbone after returning to training on Tuesday, a day after the team received an extra boost when midfielder Thiago Alcantara trained for the first time since May. Midfielder Alex Song could make his debut after arriving from Arsenal last week.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was downplaying the importance of a victory in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.
"The season couldn't have started any better for us," Pique said. "(But) the Super Cup is separate to the league. It's important to win but I don't think the title will affect the face of the league."
Barcelona will clinch its fourth straight Super Cup, and 11th overall, with a victory on Wednesday. Madrid is bidding for its first since 2008, and ninth overall.