Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona will lock horns tomorrow in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Camp Nou. Although this is a minor trophy, both teams will be giving it their best to start the season with a win and to earn bragging rights. While Real Madrid won la Liga last year, Barcelona successfully took the Copa del Ray from them. Neither side was able to reach the Champions League final to settle the argument of which is the better team--which is why the Supercup is expected to be taken seriously as it gives both teams the perfect opportunity to flex their muscles, test each other, and make a statement.
Join us after the jump to find out all you need to know about the first clasico of the season!
Last season's Supercup matches were very well fought with the first leg ending up in a 2-2 tie in Santiago Bernabeu and Barcelona getting a favorable 3-2 result in the return leg to win the trophy.
Barcelona once again beat Real Madrid in the first league clash with a score of 3-1 before the two sides met in the Copa del Ray. Real Madrid lost the first leg with a final score of 1-2 and put on a good show in the return leg at Camp Nou, but were unlucky to only gain a 2-2 draw and were thus eliminated from the competition.
The second league meeting between these two sides ended in Madrid's favor when they earned a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou to effectively win the la Liga crown.
This year's Supercopa will be an indicator of whether the tides are really turning in Real Madrid's favor and what to expect later in the year.
At the end of last year's Supercopa return leg, Marcelo committed a violent tackle which resulted in a red card and a brawl breaking out between the two teams' benches. David Villa's slap in the face of Mesut Ozil resulted in the latter responding back leaving the referee no choice but to show both players a red card. In addition, Jose Mourinho poked the eye of Barcelona's Tito Vilanova and he pushed Mourinho away in return. Upon review the Spanish Football Federation found both parties guilty and charged Jose Mourinho and Vilanova with two-match and one-match bans respectively.
These suspensions were only to be served in possible future Supercopa matches. However, after Spain's victorious run at Euro 2012, the Spanish Football Federation decided to drop all suspensions previously handed out. This means that Jose Mourinho, Mesut Ozil, Marcelo, David Villa, and Tito Vilanova will all be able to participate on Thursday.
Probable Line-ups and Tactics
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Albiol, Ramos, Coentrao, Khedira, Lass, Alonso, Di Maria, Benzema, and Ronaldo.
Since los blancos have the advantage of playing the second leg at home, Jose Mourinho will most likely go with a more defensive line-up to try to take a favorable result back to Madrid. Given that Mesut Ozil played the entire game on Sunday and seemed tired, he will most likely not start the game. Mourinho might instead start with a 4-3-3 formation to try to neutralize Barcelona's attack and bring Mesut Ozil on late in the game to get a crucial away goal. In addition, Pepe will most likely not feature at all as a precaution since he was involved in a serious collision with Iker Casillas against Valencia.
Barcelona: Valdez, Alba, Puyol, Pique, Alves, Iniesta, Busquets, Xavi, Villa, Sanchez, and Messi
Barcelona's revitalized defense and the return of injured players will mean that Vilanova will most likely go with a front line consisting of David Villa, Alexis Sanchez, and Lionel Messi which could prove to be too much to handle for Real Madrid's defense. Barca's midfield should not throw any surprises at Mourinho. Andres Iniesta and Xavi (who has gotten some rest as he did not go on intentional duty last week) will join Sergio Busquets with Cesc Fabregas on the bench. The back four will undoubtedly consist of Alba, Puyol, Pique and Alves. It will be interesting to see how Real Madrid deal with the combination of Alba, Iniesta, and Villa on the right and Alves and Messi on the left.
Barcelona will no doubt try to stretch the field of play by getting Sanchez and Villa to use the wings leaving more space in the middle for the daring runs of Messi and Iniesta.
While Barcelona have many options and Villanova could spring a few surprises with his line-up, one thing that is for certain is that this will not be the same Barcelona side los blancos defeated in April and Ronaldo and co. will have plenty to do if they are to come out victorious.
Players to Watch
Angel Di Maria: the Argentinean has been consistent in preseason and provided a marvelous assist against Valencia. He will have to be very active tomorrow and track back to help out in defense. Should Mesut Ozil be absent, Real Madrid will have to rely on his creativity and killer passes in the final third.
Jordi Alba: the Spanish international is a new addition to Barcelona. Coming off a very successful run at Euro 2012, he will be looking to test his skills against one of the best teams in the world. His combination with Andres Iniesta down the left wing should be interesting to watch.
Real Madrid looked sharp in preseason, but seemed to lack intensity against Valencia. On the other hand, Barcelona looked fresh and thoroughly defeated Real Sociedad in their first official match of the season. The addition of Villa and Alba will mean that Real Madrid's defense will have to be extra organized. Unfortunately Pepe will most likely not be available to help in this department. If Mourinho chooses to go with the previously mentioned tactic and line-up Barcelona will enjoy Mesut Ozil's absence and take control of the game. The fact that the game is being played at Camp Nou also tips the balance in Barcelona's favour.
Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid