The second Clasico of the season is still not the actual thing, being a Spanish Super Cup match and all, but with Real Madrid opening in somewhat of a disappointing fashion, Barcelona visiting the capital in hope of retaining the Supercopa after a 3-2 win in the first leg has a bit more significance than it should if the season would have started out properly for the champions.
Instead, they’ve failed to win in their first three official matches of the season – The understandable (although with far from a decent performance) loss at the Camp Nou, as both head coaches tried to downplay the importance of the cup and the match; The draw at home against Valenica, which was mostly about not being able to take care of opportunities, which Real had plenty of; The loss at Getafe, which showed some worrying signs regarding every aspect of Real’s game, although sometimes there are bad days.
For Barcelona, the start has pretty much been perfect. A convincing 5-1 win over Real Sociedad to get things started, a 3-2 win over Real Madrid that should have been less close than the scoreline suggests and a tough yet very important win over Osasuna away from home in a pitch they dropped three points at last season.
The two stars have also had a kind of polar beginning – Cristiano Ronaldo did score in the Supercopa match, but he has hardly looked threatning the rest of the 270 minutes, and especially in both league matches, in which he seemed distant and hardly involved. Maybe he’s still carrying some fatigue with him, but early season Ronaldo is not what Real Madrid signed up for if they are to retain their league title and make another deep run in the Champions League.
Lionel Messi? Four goals in two matches, twice as part of the demolition crew against Sociedad and twice against Osasuna, practically saving Barcelona from their first loss of the season. Messi loves the Bernabeu, but it’ll be interesting to see if there will be change in Vilanova’s tactics and using Messi behind Alexis Sanchez and keeping him as the front-man, looking for someone to step ahead of him or join him in the 1-2 play on the edge of the box. He struggled to find space after getting by the first defender last time, with no less than four players closing on him as he got close to Casillas. He did manage to get a few shots off; he’s Messi after all, but he’s had better days.
Both teams are trying to downplay the importance of this match, but everyone knows that if Real Madrid put in another disappointing performance and lose this match, the pressure on Jose Mourinho grows. Not hurting his position, but pressure leads to bad decisions and his usual reactions. Real need to press Barcelona like Osasuna did; Maybe even start with a front three, but an actual one, with at least two players (Ronaldo & Benzemna/Higuain) playing as forwards on defense as well instead of putting everyone behind the ball.
One interesting feature will be to see how Luka Modric performs, if he’ll even get the lineup shirt at all. A good Modric, here to help and take over some of the duties Xabi Alonso usually has, might help Mourinho actually decide to go with the three upfront formation, knowing he has a bit more quality in terms of ball movements in the midfield.
Whatever the changes may be (and I don’t expect to see too many), another hesitant and pretty much fearful performance from Real Madrid will result in another Barcelona Super Cup title, their fourth in a row. It doesn’t mean much for the rest of the season, but it’ll just reaffirm the fact that the 5 point lead Barcelona already have in the La Liga isn’t something that came by chance.
Match will be played at the Santiago Bernabeu at 22:30, local time.