For the first time in five years, Real Madrid and Barcelona will meet in the Spanish Super Cup; paving way to a set of two legs over the next four days. And hey! After a couple months of pre-season friendlies, minor international tournaments, and in most cases, no football at all, two matches against the eternal rival in a short span sounds something to look forward to.
To help us set the stage, we reached out to Renato Gonçalves (@renatodsg) of Barca Blaugranes to get the perspective of our rival.
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Kiyan: Um, I guess I have to ask you about Neymar. How do you feel?
Renato: I'm fine with it. I'm not as angry about it as most Barça fans, and that doesn't mean I'm better or worse than those fans. I just knew he'd leave someday and it's his right to pursue something he feels is better for his career. I was never connected to Neymar as a fan, and I always knew he wouldn't be a one-club player in Europe. We'll suffer without him in the short term, sure, but we'll find a way to be competitive without him. Good luck to Neymar, and we move on. It's kinda simple to me.
Kiyan: Last time we spoke, you said your coach is bad, your sporting director is bad, and the quality of your squad depth didn't reflect the money you spent. Still feel that way?
Renato: It's impossible to answer the first part of the question. Valverde had a very encouraging preseason in the tactical aspects, and he seems to be a good man-manager as well. Only competitive matches will really show how good he is and the Supercopa is a good test for him, but nothing definitive either. The sporting director continues to be horrible, and squad depth is impossible to be assessed now. It's basically the same squad as last season, but maybe the bad players will improve with a year of experience. I'm not excited or pessimistic heading into the season, I'll just see how it goes.
Kiyan: Can you build a better team without Neymar if you get Dembele, plus another central midfielder? Who would you like to see come in?
Renato: With Valverde, yes. We won't get Verratti and apparently the central midfielder is Paulinho, who is not the most encouraging signing in history. But if Dembélé comes and Valverde trains the team as well as I think he can, we'll be a stronger team instead of just eight players trying their hardest to supply the MSN like we saw last season. We have to get Dembélé, though. Coutinho is a decent option, but no one is more ideal than Ousmane. He's the guy to replace Neymar and add a new dynamic to the attack, and we must get him. It's that simple.
Kiyan: Agree or disagree with this Del Bosque quote: "Barcelona got rid of a player who could sometimes be capricious. Barcelona will be a better team without Neymar."
Renato: That remains to be seen, and Neymar was quite a popular character in the dressing room. It's not like he was an a-hole and everyone hated him, his presence will be missed. But like I said before, without him we have a chance to return to the days where the team was more important than the individuals. With Messi, Suárez, Dembélé and a better midfield structure, we could be a pretty good team again.
Kiyan: What should Real Madrid be worried about heading into the first leg of the Super Cup?
Renato: Messi and Suárez, obviously, but nothing beyond that. Madrid have the same coach for a good amount of time and Barça are starting from scratch again in terms of tactics thanks to Lucho's insanity last season. It'll take time to get this team going again, and unless Messi and Suárez are otherworldly for the two legs, Madrid are favorites.
Kiyan: What should Barcelona be worried about?
Renato: Just how well Real Madrid are playing right now. Ever since the Atlético Madrid semi-final in the Champions League last season, Madrid have played superbly, and that was quite clear against Manchester United. There are threats everywhere, and the introduction of Isco in the position he should be playing all along changed this team. Ronaldo is now a striker, and that is a scary prospect. I'm also really worried about Marcelo because Nélson Semedo will be on the bench and Aleix Vidal is just not good enough defensively. So yeah, I'm terrified.
Kiyan: Call it.
Renato: 2-2 draw. Madrid will outplay Barça, but I think Messi and Suárez are really sharp and will find a couple of goals.