FC Barcelona will be looking to pull off the impossible tomorrow at the Camp Nou, when they attempt to overturn a four-goal deficit against Athletic Bilbao and keep their sextuple dreams alive by winning the Supercopa de España. On Friday evening, the Blaugrana were comprehensively played off the park at San Mames, dismantled and humiliated time and time again en route to a crushing 0-4 defeat. Will they be able to replicate that kind of performance themselves back in Catalunya?
The odds are firmly stacked against Barça and with good reason. It was just two days ago that Athletic Club were handing it to us after all; just how much will have changed in the 72 hours between the first leg and tomorrow’s return? Athletic remain the fitter side, and are perhaps more motivated too; alas, Culés will keep hope alive.
Rotating his squad didn’t work out for the best for Luis Enrique on Friday, but there’s no real reason to be discouraged. After all, the Supercopa de España remains the least important of the six trophies we will be competing for this season. Naturally, it remains a trophy that we would like to win, but in the grand scheme of things, a loss in the Spanish Supercopa is far more preferable than say, a 0-7 thrashing in the UEFA Champions League. Or a 0-5 loss in El Clasico...ahem.
Equally, the defeat shouldn’t alter our opinion of the squad too much. Yes, it brought some issues to light – but let’s cool the overreactions. Marc-André ter Stegen isn’t a terrible goalkeeper (and this coming from a staunch Claudio Bravo supporter), Rafinha Alcântara is still a tremendous prospect in midfield, and Luis Suarez isn’t bad either. Everyone has off days, and I suppose those off days are more likely to materialise in the aftermath of a gruelling UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla in Tbilisi.
Plus, to really enjoy the highs of being a Barcelona supporter, you need these lows – I mean, it’s like Culés have already forgotten that the team is human and therefore capable of losing.
Newsflash, they are fallible and that’s OK!
Expect Enrique to start his strongest team tomorrow in his bid to keep the sextuple alive; that means Marc-André ter Stegen should continue in goal, with Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu my choices to complete the backline. Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitić and Andrés Iniesta should return in midfield and of course, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Pedro Rodriguez can then round out the attack.
Clearly, there’s not much use in wasting too much time talking about this near impossible task – but I would like to draw out just how good Pedro has looked at the start of this season. His predatory instinct separates him from arguably every other member of the squad – including Suarez and Messi – and he looks both motivated and sharp, a deadly combination that saw him eclipse Messi in Friday’s loss.
If we can, we really should be doing all we can to keep Pedro at the club, at least until January when Arda Turan can make his debut.
Barcelona may have overturned some deficits at the Camp Nou – and some have been brought up in recent days, like the 4-0 win over AC Milan from 2012. However, the fact remains that Barça have never overturned a 0-4 deficit before. The likelihood that tomorrow is the day they finally do, well, it seems statistically unlikely. Athletic have no new injuries to contend with, and should be full of confidence after Friday – who knows, they might even play for another win tomorrow.
Athletic Club 4-0 FC Barcelona – 14th August 2015 – Spanish Supercup
You don’t need reminding of this, right?
Barcelona (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Mathieu; Busquets, Rakitić, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Pedro
Athletic (4-2-3-1): Iraizoz; de Marcos, Laporte, Etxeita, Balenziaga; San Jose, Benat; Susaeta, Eraso, Sabin; Aduriz
We’ll pick up the win, but there’s not much chance of the comeback. 2-1 Barça.