Barcelona go into the first Clasico of the season on Thursday night as the happier of the two clubs following their 5-1 win against Sociedad on the weekend. But a disappointing showing from Real Madrid in their league opener is unlikely to be an indicator of what’s to come, and the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup promises to be another explosive showdown.
It was maybe Barcelona “lite” in terms of their attacking trident on the weekend, with Pedro and Cristian Tello replacing the regular faces in those advanced positions. It was promising to see Pedro back among the goals – hopefully a sign of things to come – and Tello’s pace was always a threat.
However, against Madrid, Barcelona are likely to see Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta flanking Lionel Messi. Iniesta should take the left wing spot over David Villa, who is still on the road back to 100 per cent match sharpness.
We saw the wonderful passing of the Barcelona team against Sociedad – something which has clearly not been lost following Pep Guardiola’s departure. But the team will need to step up their game significantly when Real Madrid arrive at the Nou Camp.
Bet365 odds on this Spanish Super Cup match:
8/11 Barcelona, 14/5 Draw, 7/2 Real Madrid
Carles Puyol saw just over 50 minutes of the game on the weekend, and his inclusion would be key for the home side in this tie. His partnership with Gerard Pique remains one of the best in all of European football.
We should also see Cesc Fabregas in the starting line-up, likely operating in tandem with Messi as the two most advanced central players.
Barcelona’s passing and possession-based game won’t always land them the victory against their fiercest rivals. The final Clasico of last season saw a relentless Barcelona attack succumb to Real Madrid’s blitzkrieg counter attack, with Cristiano Ronaldo landing the stunning knock-out blow following Sanchez’s equaliser for the home team.
If Madrid are on form, which they were evidently not against Valencia, then Barcelona will have a tough time putting out the fire of their dangerous counters.
Players like Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will be key for Barcelona at both ends of the pitch, as Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria – the two most likely wide players – have plenty in their locker to trouble the home defence. Alves likes to get forward, as does Alba, but there needs to be significant cover in both full-back areas.
For Jose Mourinho’s team, Sami Khedira should return to partner Xabi Alonso in midfield, while the defence are likely to be without Pepe following a nasty collision with Iker Casillas on the weekend.
If Madrid are forced to play Raul Albiol then Barcelona may find a lot of joy by exploiting the defender, who has seen very little action in recent months.
I expect Madrid will try to keep the Barcelona scoring down as best they can, so it’s likely we’ll see Fabio Coentrao at left-back over Marcelo. The Portuguese full-back had a fairly decent game against Valencia, but his defensive awareness over Marcelo’s will always see him favoured in situations such as this.
The majesty of the greatest rivalry in European football has been lost in recent years, replaced by something a little closer to the drama of one of those bad TV shows. Nevertheless, El Clasico is must-watch TV, and the combination of wave after wave of on-field attacks and fireworks in the dugout always equate to something extremely entertaining.
I expect Ronaldo to bounce back in a big way from his below-par performance on the weekend and Lionel Messi is almost sure to add to his two goals scored against Sociedad.
Barcelona v Real Madrid Betting Tips Conclusion
Barcelona’s spirits will certainly be the higher of the two teams, despite failing in their most recent encounter. I fancy both teams to score in this game but with Barcelona coming out with the victory after this first leg.