Preseason is over, and the real football starts for the two Spanish giants this weekend. Over the next four days Barcelona and Real Madrid will clash twice for the Supercopa de España. Madrid dominated La Liga last season while Barça won the Copa del Rey for the third straight year, and it’s the first time since 2012 that the two biggest clubs in Spain will face each other for the Super Cup title.
The winner of the Super Cup this year isn’t necessarily the best team in Spain for the next season, but two Clásicos in four days to begin the season could prove to be fundamental for the winner.
If Barça win it, they’ll have a giant boost ahead of the new campaign. Ernesto Valverde will begin his coaching career legitimized by a Spanish Super Cup against the club’s biggest rival, and if he’s able to do it having just a week to figure out how to play without Neymar, then the confidence from everyone associated with Barça in Valverde will grow exponentially.
As hard as it is to admit, Real Madrid are clearly head and shoulders above every European team at the moment. Zinedine Zidane stopped being extremely lucky and has actually become a pretty competent coach with a couple of seasons under his belt, and his team looks very well managed and able to beat anyone. Madrid absolutely destroyed Manchester United for 70 minutes in the UEFA Super Cup, and the Blancos look like favorites to win everything again.
If they win the Supercopa over Barça, their confidence will be even bigger going into the new season. It’s safe to say the Blaugrana begin the season as the underdogs in Spain, which could actually be good news. When everyone doubts you, proving them wrong is actually a lot more fun than just confirming everybody’s predictions.
Barça are starting a new coaching era without one of the world’s best players facing the best team in Europe today. Seems like we’re destined to lose. Can we defy the odds and show Barcelona is still Barcelona?
MATCH INFO, TV/STREAMING
Date/Time: Sunday, August 13, 2017, 10pm local time, 4pm ET, 1pm PT (USA), 9pm BST (UK), 1:30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia
Television: ESPN (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK), SuperSport 7 (Nigeria), Sony LIV (India), TeleCinco, TV3 (Spain)
Online streaming: WatchESPN (USA), Sky GO (UK)
(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)
Thomas Vermaelen and André Gomes miss out because of injury, and Arda Turan, Marlon Santos and Sergi Samper have been left out of the squad. For Madrid, Luka Modric is suspended and Jesús Vallejo misses out through injury.
Barça will most likely start the same team from the Joan Gamper Trophy against Chapecoense last Monday, with the only doubt being at right-back with Aleix Vidal and Nélson Semedo fighting for the spot. Vidal started most of the preseason matches and will likely be Valverde’s choice for the first competitive match.
It seems like Gerard Piqué and Samuel Umtiti will be Valverde’s top center-back pairing, with Javier Mascherano as the clear backup to both spots. Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andrés Inista remain the best three midfielders in the squad and will start together on Sunday. Valverde has worked hard to add some structure to the midfield that was missing in Luis Enrique’s last season, so hopefully we’ll see a much stronger performance from the midfield, which is a crucial area of the park for anyone that faces Real Madrid.
Up front, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez will play alongside Gerard Deulofeu, who had a very strong performance in the Gamper match and will hope to prove himself against the highest level of opposition possible these days. Deulofeu will never be Neymar, but if he’s solid enough to provide a little bit of threat on the left wing, he’ll have a few chances since the Madrid defense will most likely focus on Messi and Suárez all game long.
We have to keep in mind that this is the first competitive match under Valverde, and the team is very much a work in progress. There were many positive signs in preseason, but going from low-intensity preparation matches to the best team in Europe is quite the jump, so all we’re looking for from Barça is a few encouraging things for the season ahead.
Losing El Clásico is never nice, but it should be acceptable if it happens in the Supercopa. But Barça are still Barça and Messi and Suárez look very sharp and could do a lot of damage. Remember: we won the last Clásico at the Bernabéu with terrible tactics and without Neymar. This time we’ll have better tactics, so hopefully the team looks better than it did and Messi can steal the show again.
Ter Stegen; Vidal, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Deulofeu
Real Madrid (4-3-1-2)
Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kovacic, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema
Madrid have scored in the last 66 matches. Barça usually score a lot at home. 2-2 draw.