The first trophy of the season will be decided tomorrow night (Wednesday 10.30 pm) as Barça take a 3-2 lead to the Santiago Bernabeu for the Supercopa return match with Real Madrid. Barça will train this afternoon at 7pm at Camp Nou before Tito Vilanova decides on the players who will make the trip tomorrow to Madrid.
Barça still have Thiago, Cuenca, Muniesa and Abidal out, though Thiago has started training with the group so he should be back soon, while Carles Puyol has declared himself ok to play with a face mask after getting his cheekbone fractured in a jump with Roland Lamah late in Saturday’s game at Osasuna. However it seems likely that Vilanova will go with Piqué, who has started the new season well, reportedly being a kilo and a half lighter than at the start of last season, and Mascherano, who will make his 100th appearance for Barça if he plays.
The other main doubts for Vilanova are whether to play Alba or Adriano at left back and Villa or Alexis up front with Messi and Pedro. Given Alba’s passivity in allowing Joseba Llorente to score for Osasuna on Saturday the job may go back to Adriano who played in the first leg, while I think Alexis will slightly have the edge to start due to Villa’s complicated recuperation. Alex Song will probably start on the bench again but it would be no surprise to see him make his debut as a substitute depending on how the game is going.
Real Madrid, of course, have had a difficult start to the season and have yet to win after three official games. However, talk of crisis is very dangerous and we should know from experience that our rivals are quite capable of hitting a ten-match winning streak at any time. Like a wounded animal they will make a very difficult opponent tomorrow and with Pepe looking sure to return in defence and new €30 million signing Luca Modric declaring himself ready to play, José Mourinho will have all his key players available to put out his strongest team.
Victory over Barça at the Bernabeu has eluded Madrid for more than four years now. In fact, Pep Guardiola recorded a remarkable five wins and two draws in seven games in front of Madrid’s faithful, with the last game back in January when Eric Abidal scored the winner in the Copa del Rey clash. It should also be mentioned that Dani Alves and Leo Messi are the only two players who played in all seven of those games. There can’t be too many more records for Messi to break, but his penalty in Thursday’s first leg at Camp Nou was his fourteenth goal against Real Madrid equalling Cesar Rodriguez’s record in clásicios, and a goal tomorrow would give the Argentinian the outright record.
Barça have won the Supercopa in the last three seasons taking the total number of victories to ten, two more than Madrid who last won the trophy in 2008. Barça have lifted the cup on the last five occasions we have participated and you have to go back to 1999 for our last defeat when we lost 4-3 on aggregate to Valencia. However, besides last season’s 5-4 aggregate win over Madrid, the other four occasions that we have played them in the supercup (1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997) have all ended with Madrid victories. Tomorrow night is an excellent moment to grab another win for Barça. Psychologically it could be an extremely important game: a first trophy for Tito will help a lot to take the pressure off him after all of Guardiola’s success, while for Madrid a defeat after their poor start to the season will no doubt send the press into a frenzy of crisis talk.
Barça scored 18 goals at the Bernabeu under Guardiola, tomorrow I’m going for us to get another three which should be enough to see us lift our first trophy under Tito.
Possible starting XIs:
Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao; Alonso, Khedira; Ozil, Di Maria, Ronaldo; Benzema.
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano; XAvi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Alexis.
Kick off: Wednesday 27 August 10.30 pm.
My prediction: Real Madrid 2 Barça 3