Barcelona and Real Madrid will draw open the curtains on the Spanish football season when they face at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. The view beyond the window looks very different for each side. Madrid have supplemented their LaLiga and Champions League double last season with a productive transfer window. Barcelona, by contrast, have been rocked by
Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint Germain.
Barça will be eager to secure victory as a means of slowing the momentum-shift towards the Spanish capital. The outcome of the Super Cup will not define the season, but it will set the tone for the start of it.
Ernesto Valverde’s short tenure so far as the manager of Barcelona has been challenging. Neymar has walked the red carpet to PSG, and although Ousmane Dembélé and Philippe Coutinho have been identified as replacements, a cavernous gap exists in the Barcelona team.
The captivating ‘MSN’, among the most potent attacking trios in the history of football, is no longer. Gerard Deulofeu is expected to fill the role on the left wing vacated by the ‘N’ component. The La Masia product will make his second debut for Barcelona after
returning from a stint at Everton.
Elsewhere, Barça have a relatively clean bill of health following their final pre-season match against Chapecoense. Rafael is a the only absentee.
Gerard Piqúe made some interesting comments on the eve of the match. His assertion that “We’re training well, training hard, and we’re confident that we can win the Super Cup,” was unremarkable. More intriguing was his admittance that “When I wrote the ‘he’s staying’ tweet, I knew 100% that Neymar was leaving.” The ‘se queda’ saga takes another twist.
Possible Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Aleix, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Deulofeu.
While Barcelona are preparing for their first competitive match of the season, Madrid already have a Super Cup of the UEFA variety under their belt. They beat Manchester United in Macedonia to claim their first piece of silverware of the season.
Since then, two key signings have taken place. On Friday, Isco signed a new contract that will keep him at the Bernabéu until 2022, while on Saturday Zinedine Zidane agreed to a three-year extension. At a club that has become synonymous with instability and a revolving door to the manager’s office, the foundations of a longer-term project are being laid. Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernández join a squad that already boasts a strong contingent of talented young players. Marco Asensio made an impressive impact last season, while Jesús Vallejo and Marcos Llorente return from fruitful loan spells. When the time comes, those youngsters should allow Madrid to complete the ideal transition: one that is barely noticeable.
Cristiano Ronaldo is easing himself back in to action after a prolonged break that began with Portugal’s elimination in the semi-final of the Confederations Cup. The forward came on as a substitute in the second half of Madrid’s defeat of Manchester United.
Luka Modric is suspended as a result of a curious three-year-old ban , and his compatriot Mateo Kovacic is expected to deputise.
Possible Real Madrid XI: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Kovacic, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco; Benzema/Bale, Ronaldo.