The Supercopa is coming just at the right time for Barcelona.
In the last few years, it’s been a special tournament that has served to give the team confidence, heading into the second half of the season.
In 2022, Xavi was just starting as the manager. The club was in turmoil, and even though they lost to Real Madrid 3-2 in the semifinals, it was a fantastic performance that was the beginning of an important turnaround to get the season back on the rails.
A year ago, Barcelona tore apart Real Madrid in the final, taking the trophy with a 3-1 victory. They followed that up with a La Liga trophy, all but assured after beating the Galacticos at the Camp Nou in March.
Now, once again, the tournament in Saudi Arabia is more than symbolism.
It comes in the middle of a long and challenging campaign.
At a time when the team desperately needs a shake up. A result to inspire confidence that they can go on and achieve success in the here and now.
To be clear, Osasuna has not been a good team this season, as they were a year ago. Both of Barcelona’s goals in the semifinal came as a result of bad mistakes from their opponent.
But Barcelona took advantage of those moments, and put away the game. That’s a good sign. Especially coming from Robert Lewandowski, who Barca needs to get going in order to be the best version of themselves, and Lamine Yamal, who is young and full of promise, but needs to prove to himself that he can be a creator of goals, and not just a technical marvel.
The men from Pamplona were never really in this game.
Not especially dangerous going forward. Not organized defensively either.
Barcelona, compared to what we’ve seen lately, played fast and with self-assurance. They looked intent on making something of this opportunity from the get-go.
And that’s a good sign. Especially after the embarrassment in Copa del Rey, barely getting past fourth division side Barbastro.
It doesn’t take a lot to turn around the fortunes of a football team.
On October 28th, Barcelona was on route to a win against Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season. It was a chance to take the lead in the race for the La Liga title. In the first 45 minutes, they were the protagonists, with their rivals barely touching the ball.
But in the second half, things fell apart courtesy of Jude Bellingham.
From there, Barcelona’s form fell apart too. Everyone got a piece of the Catalan giants. Shakhtar, Antwerp, and Club America. Even the minnows of Spain, Almeria, were able to put hands on the reigning champions.
But as fast as things can fall apart, they can also be put back together. Xavi has been in search of a catalyst to give his team some adrenaline to change the direction they’re heading in.
Winning a trophy at this point of this season could do just that.
The fact that they could do so at the expense of their main rival in Spain is double the value.
So Sunday will be a big match.
The Saudis will be loud and in full force, ready to enjoy the best football match the world can offer.
Barcelona will need to be focused and disciplined to pull this one out. They can’t repeat the same mistakes that allowed Real Madrid to steal the victory from them at Montjuïc.
Joao Felix, Robert Lewandowski, and Yamine Lamal looked great on Thursday.
A moment or two of brilliance from them would be very opportune to get culers back on their side.
The return of Pedri, who could join Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gundogan, gives Barcelona back their strongest midfield. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergi Roberto start again, giving his experience in big matches.
In a way, not having Joao Cancelo available may play to Barca’s advantage. Running back their back four of Alejandro Balde, Andreas Christensen, Jules Kounde, and Ronald Araujo, should be more than enough to pocket the attacking threat from Real Madrid, as they have done in the past.
There’s a lot on the line here.
Xavi and his men know it.
This Clasico could be a saving grace that propels them forward to bigger and better things in the near future.
Or it could be a bucket of cold water.
Depends which Barca team shows up.
Let’s hope for the former. And that brighter days are ahead.