The first trophy of the season is up for grabs tomorrow night as Barça take on Atlético Madrid in the second leg of the Supercopa at Camp Nou (Wednesday 11 pm). The first game last week at the Vicente Calderón ended in a 1-1 draw with ex-blaugrana David Villa putting Atlético into an early lead before Neymar Jr came on as a second half substitute to head in an important away goal that gives Barça a slight advantage going into the return match. There is a lot of expectation that Neymar could make Tata Martino’s initial lineup for the first time while Leo Messi looks likely to recover in time which means that we could see Barça’s new super duo together in the starting XI for the first time.
Diego Simeone has called up his entire first team squad for the game which means that 24 players made the two-and-a-half-hour train trip from Madrid to Barcelona today. Atlético will stay at the Hotel Princesa Sofia and the squad will train this evening at Espanyol’s Ciutat Esportiva. Simeone is likely to put out a very similar team to that seen in the first leg though he may be tempted to find a place for Raúl Garcia after his brace in Sunday’s 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
Barça look likely to be without Adriano after a muscle injury forced him off during Sunday’s 0-1 victory at Malaga. However, Martino should have Messi back after the player trained normally yesterday, but Barça’s coach will wait to announce the squad until this evening’s training session.
We are only three games into the season so it is still early to judge, but so far we have seen that Martino is prepared to rotate players without going crazy. Alba and Iniesta were rested against Levante while it was the turn of Busquets, who today signed a new contract until 2018, and Alves at Malaga, but the core of the team has remained unchanged. Valdés, Piqué, Mascherano, Xavi and Alexis have played all three games so far and there is already the sense that the back-up for Piqué, Mascherano and Xavi may not be so good which could lead to an overload of games for these players.
Piqué and Mascherano look likely to start again against Atlético in a back four with Alves and Alba. Martino has yet to try a midfield three of Busquets, Fabregas and Iniesta but this could be an option tomorrow if the 33-year-old Xavi needs a rest. Neymar showed enough in half an hour at Malaga to suggest he deserves a start more than Pedro so if Messi is fit again we could have the exciting South American trio of Alexis, Messi and Neymar leading the attack.
Atlético’s last five visits to Camp Nou have all ended in defeat. Barça have found the Atlético net 23 times in those five games with Messi scoring an impressive 11 of those goals. Last season’s league fixture finished with a 4-1 Barça victory with Adriano, Busquets and Messi twice replying to Radamel Falcao’s opening. I have a feeling that tomorrow’s game will be tighter but at the end of the match Tata Martino will have secured his first title as Barça’s coach.
In other news today Barça have announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways that will be worth €100 million to the club. The airline have offered an additional €5 million bonus if Barça win the Champions League during the three years and they will also organize new flight routes to Barcelona for Barça’s home games. Barça will continue to wear the name of Qatar Airways on the shirt while extending the amount of publicity for the airline around Camp Nou. There will also be other publicity projects such as the advert released today that you can watch below…
Possible starting XIs.
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Neymar.
Atlético: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis; Koke, Mario Suarez, Gabi, Arda Turan; Diego Costa, Villa.
Prediction: Barça 2 Atlético 1
Date: Wednesday 28 August 2013. Kick off: 11 pm local time.