It’s the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday night, the curtain-raiser to La Liga, and the first competitive El Clasico of the new Spanish season. It’s always a mouth-watering game when Barcelona and Real Madrid go head-to-head, and the two matches this week are expected to be as entertaining as ever. The Camp Nou plays host to Sunday’s first leg, with the return match at the Bernabeu scheduled for Wednesday night.
The two sides met in a preseason friendly just two weeks ago in the International Champions Cup with Barcelona running out 3-2 winners courtesy of Gerard Pique’s goal. Plenty has happened since then, with Neymar’s world record transfer to PSG capturing all the headlines. Barcelona will have to cope without him for this game, but look to be chasing Liverpool’s Coutinho as a replacement. New signings Nelson Semedo and Gerard Deulofeu are both available, and of course, Messi and Suarez are expected to line up on Sunday night.
Real Madrid have made no big signings this summer apart from Brazilian starlet Vinicius, but he has been sent back on loan to Flamengo to continue his footballing education. Speculation about the future of Gareth Bale has been swept off, and both he and Cristiano Ronaldo are set to stay and go in search of a third successive Champions League.
These Super Cup matches will be important indicators for the season ahead, and are about more than just pride or bragging rights. Real dominated last season, winning La Liga as well as the Champions League, whereas Barcelona had to settle for 2nd place and a Copa Del Rey trophy. That will hurt the Catalan club and this season will be all about trying to usurp Real Madrid and regain the La Liga title – a task that may have been made more difficult after the departure of Neymar. For Real Madrid a third successive European trophy has to be the ultimate aim this season, but they will want to assert their authority over Barcelona to lay down a marker for the season ahead.
Messi and co. have won four of the last six El Clasicos, including the last two meetings. Their incredible home record has seen them fail to win just three times in the last 25 matches, and it will be important to take a first-leg leg lead with them to the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid have had an odd preseason, losing to Manchester United (on penalties) and Manchester City in the International Champions Cup, as well as Barcelona. However, they did come back to form with the victory over Mourinho’s Man United in last week’s UEFA Super Cup. Casemiro and Isco were on target before Lukaku pulled one back in the 2-1 Madrid win, but one thing which was evident was that Real still look vulnerable going backwards under Zinedine Zidane. That sounds like a harsh criticism, but despite winning the two top trophies last season they rarely kept clean sheets.
Barcelona are hardly renowned for their ability to shut out the opposition either, and the modus operandi for both teams is simply to outscore their opponents. That tactic pays dividends in the Spanish League and the early stages of the Champions League, but it is one of the reasons that Barcelona have come unstuck in recent years against well-organised sides.
Four of the last seven meetings between Real and Barca have had four or more goals, and it would be no great surprise to see this one go the same way. Both teams love to attack and are happy to leave gaps at the back, and with the best forward talent in Europe on display, there should be plenty of chances on offer.
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