Barça and Madrid face each other for the first time in the 2012/13 season in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa at Camp Nou tomorrow night (kick off 10.30pm local time). Curiously, it is the first clásico with Tito Vilanova in charge, twelve months after the infamous Mourinho finger-in-the-eye incident in last year’s Supercup.
Barça lifted the trophy last year after a 5-4 aggregate win but the second game at Camp Nou will always be remembered for the scuffle after Marcelo scythed down Cesc Fabregas with Mourinho calmly walking up and sticking his finger in his finger in Vilanova’s eye.
Despite the lack of remorse shown by Mourinho at the time, the Spanish Football association issued a joke punishment of two games for Mourinho and one for Tito for his retaliation, stipulating that the ban was only valid for the Spanish Supercup. Lo and behold, one year on and both coaches are facing each other in the same competition, while the suspensions have both been controversially lifted meaning they will both be on the touchline.
Barça against Madrid is, of course, always a massive game, but while the Supercopa in itself may not be of the greatest importance to the two clubs, the psychological blow served on the loser makes this tie vitally important, and perhaps more so to Barça and Tito who will be judged by many a fickle fan if Barça don’t win.
Madrid will be hoping to bounce back from their disappointing 1-1 draw with Valencia on Sunday. It seems unlikely that Pepe will recover from his head-banging party with Iker Casillas which will see Raul Albiol partner Sergio Ramos in defence. Mourinho will probably play the usual 4-2-3-1 system though it can’t be ruled out that his defensive instincts won’t get the better of him. If he goes with 4-2-3-1 it seems he has three choices to make: Coentrao looks likely to continue at left back in preference to Marcelo, Sami Khedira will probably return to midfield in place of Lass Diarra, while up front he has to decide between Higuain and Benzema with most signs indicating that Higuain will start.
There are also plenty of decisions for Tito. Which two of Piqué, Puyol and Mascherano to play at the back? Does Iniesta return, and in midfield or on the left wing? Should Tello get another chance after his performance against Real Sociedad? What about Alexis? And will there be any tactical variations to surprise Mourinho?
Having watched the preseason I don’t expect us to suddenly revert to a defence of three, and I don’t expect to see the 3-4-3 very much this season, now that we have a more attack-minded left back in Jordi Alba. I do think we will continue to see a lot of width from the forwards, in the Gamper we saw Deulofeu and Villa both showing the discipline to stay wide that we saw against Real Sociedad with Pedro and Tello. Tomorrow is the first really big test for Tito’s team and I’m confident that we can get a good result to defend next Wednesday in the second leg at the Bernabéu.
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Alexis.
Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Albiol, Ramos, Coentrao; Alonso, Khedira; Ozil, Di Maria, Ronaldo; Higuian.
My prediction: Barça 3 Madrid 1