That time of the year again, when the first Clasico arrives. Real Madrid, the La Liga champions, and Barcelona, the Copa del Rey and league runners-up, in what is always more than just a Super Cup match with the potential to both produce fantastic football, especially considering it’s still August, and for emotions and the rivalry itself to take over and turn it into something a bit more physical, aggressive and violent than you would expect.
And as much as it may be getting tiresome for some, it’s once again the showdown between the two best players in the world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Regardless of how many other stars are on the pitch, like Andres Iniesta who’s nominated for the UEFA European player of the year award alongside the two, the focus is one the two, who rarely share a camera moment together, spending their time on opposite sides of the field.
Jose Mourinho downplayed the importance of this matchup, as he should. A Super Cup trophy means nothing, especially when the important wins and points you should pick up arrive in May and April. Still, prestige is always at hand when it comes to this rivalry, and setting the tone early for the rest of the season (hopefully) is never something you should avoid when granted the opportunity.
Who comes in as the better team, or the favorite? Probably Barcelona, seeing as it’s at the first leg is at the Nou Camp, where Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 5-1 just a few days ago. Lionel Messi got a good long rest this summer, and opened his campaign with a lazy double, almost as an afterthought. Real Madrid did play well, but had their problems against Valencia (at the Bernabeu), dropping two points in a 1-1 draw. Cristiano Ronaldo was having an off day, but maybe he needs motivation like Barcelona obviously provide.
Real Madrid did win the last match up between the two sides, in Barcelona, with Ronaldo scoring the winner and showing everyone that it’s time for a change in the La Liga, leading up to his first league title with Real Madrid. Ronaldo also scored one of the goals in the 3-2 loss to Barcelona in the second leg last year, won by Lionel Messi and Barcelona with the Argentinian scoring two goals, including the winner with two minutes left.
The other interesting clash will be on the sidelines, as Tito Vilanova gets his first taste as a head coach of facing Real Madrid, of the rivalry’s pressure, and working against Jose Mourinho. Everyone remembers Mourinho’s disgraceful behavior from last year, but Mourinho himself, who never really apologized for his actions, didn’t want to address that angle of the story and that incident at all in the pre-match press conference.
Barcelona have won this competition 10 times out of a possible 17, more wins and appearances than any other Spanish club. Real Madrid are next in line with 8 wins in 12 appearances. Real haven’t won the title since 2008, when they beat Valencia 6-5 on aggregate. The last time Barcelona missed out on this title while appearing in the Super Cup was in 1999 losing to Valencia. They lost to Real Madrid in the 1997 Super Cup. Lionel Messi is the competition’s top scorer all-time with 8 goals.
After all, it’s just a Super Cup match, which is in all fairness, an upgraded preseason match. But the fact that this rivalry gets another chapter is what makes it much more, and gives it the potential to produce some exceptional, although not always positive, fireworks.