With another Clasico on the horizon, it is time to once again take a closer look at our beloved rivals. Given the number of clashes between Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent years it would be easy to think that Real Madrid know exactly what they are dealing with and have figured out the key to beating the Catalans considering their 2-1 victory in April. However, the current Barcelona side is not the same team that los blancos have faced in the past two years due to a few changes to their squad.
The biggest change in Barcelona's personnel is their new manager Tito Vilanova who replaced Pep Guardiola at the end of last season. While he is certainly known to Madridistas because of the infamous eye-poke incident that happened last August his work and coaching abilities have not yet been showcased. He certainly has big shoes to fill, but seems very fit for the Barcelona job. Given that he's only been in charge for one official match he is unpredictable, which gives him an advantage going into Thursday's match. While it remains to be seen whether he is tactically as aware as Guardiola, it seems that he is much better in signing new players. Join me after the jump to find out what changes he has brought to the team.
Barcelona have improved their defensive line with the signing of Jordi Alba, a left back who much like Marcelo likes to push forward and help in attack. While this could potentially leave Barca open for quick counter attacks on Thursday, one cannot underestimate what Alba will bring to Barcelona's attack. He is very quick and gifted and seemed to have great communication with Andres Iniesta during Spain's Euro 2012 campaign.
Vilanova also seems to have noticed the lack of depth for the holding midfielder position and has brought in Alex Song from Arsenal to provide back up for Sergio Busquests which could prove to vital in the race for the La Liga crown.
Despite the fact that Barcelona have only had two signing (both of whom are fantastic in my opinion), they have also been revitalized with the return of David Villa. The Spanish star seems to have recovered fully from his broken knee and came off the bench to finish off Barcelona's 5-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad on Sunday with a goal. The fact that he was not part of the starting line-up points to his inclusion against Real Madrid. Joing Villa in attack is Lionel Messi who seems to have benefited from his first full preseason in years and is in fantastic form at the moment, scoring a brace on Sunday to gain a two goals lead in his personal duel with Cristiano Ronaldo for the Golden Boot. Andres Iniesta and Gerrrard Pique also started the game on the bench against Sociedad which almost guarantees their place in the starting eleven for the Supercopa match.
In addition to Jordi Alba, the return of Carles Puyol from injury has made Barcelona's back four stronger meaning that Real Madrid's strikers need to be in top form going into the Supercopa first leg. It appears that Barcelona have gone back to using the 4-3-3 formation and have refrained from using the 3-4-3 formation because of their newly regained strength in defense. That means that Cesc Fabregas will most likely start on the bench on Thursday and be introduced if Barcelona are behind to shift to a 3-4-3 formation.
While both Real Madrid and Barcelona won all of their preseason games, Barcelona could only defeat Manchester United and PSG through penalty shootouts. If the season-openers for both teams tells us anything, it is that preseason form does not count going into Thursday's match. Barcelona look to be in better shape at the moment and will most likely put on a show. It will be a very difficult game for Real Madrid to play at Camp Nou, but this team have shown that they are capable of taking the game to Barcelona. Hopefully the Only One will approach the game in a positive manner and will avoid purely defensive tactics. Join us for the game preview to find out more about possible line-ups and tactics.