3 Key Battles That Could Decide the Spanish Super Cup First Leg Between Barcelona & Real Madrid

Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona team plays host to bitter rivals Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Sunday evening, as the new Blaugrana manager makes his competitive debut in Spanish Super Cup.

The Catalan giants come into the game on the back of the bitter loss of superstar Neymar to Paris St Germain for a world record fee of £198m, and will hope to prove that there is life after the Brazilian in the first clasico of the new season. 

Los Blancos, meanwhile, come into the game on a high having added the European Super Cup to their coffers with a midweek victory over Manchester United, and will hope to take steps towards adding yet another trophy to their cabinet on Sunday.

1. Aleix Vidal vs Cristiano Ronaldo

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Vidal has managed to work his way into Barca manager Valverde’s thinking with a series of impressive pre-season displays, keeping new  €32m signing Nelson Semedo out of the side in recent games.

He will face his stiffest test yet on Sunday however, as he comes up against arguably the world’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese will be fresh having featured late against United in midweek, and can be expected to probe Vidal at every given opportunity.

2. Gerard Deulofeu vs Dani Carvajal

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Whilst not the superstar name we have become accustomed to in this glamorous fixture, how returning La Masia graduate Gerard Deulofeu fares in his battle with established Spanish international Dani Carvajal could go some way towards deciding who edges this game.

Following the activation of his buyback clause from Everton, Deulofeu hit the ground running on his return with a goal and an assist against Brazilian side Chapecoense, and will hope to further stake his claim against one of the world’s best right backs.

3. Luis Suarez vs Raphael Varane

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Probably the world’s best player not named Messi or Ronaldo, Luis Suarez will look to continue his outstanding form of last season by scoring against his team’s greatest rivals.

His 29 goals and 13 assists kept Barcelona in the hunt for La Liga last time out, and the absence of Neymar will provide him greater influence over the team.

Varane, meanwhile, comes into his first season as an undisputed starter with the sternest of tests, and how he fares against Suarez could set the tone for the rest of his season.

4. Andres Iniesta vs Toni Kroos

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A dream battle of midfield dynamo’s, in Luka Modric’ absence the battle for supremacy in the middle of the park between Kroos and Iniesta will hold even more significance in this game.

Despite being on the wrong side of thirty, Iniesta has been somewhat dominant in recent displays against Los Blancos, and Kroos will hope to turn the tide in a manner that befits his form in recent years.

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Barcelona vs Real Madrid Preview: Team News, Classic Encounter, Key Battles & More

The first official Clasico of the season takes place on Sunday evening, as a buoyant Real Madrid side are hosted by fierce rivals Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

The Catalan giants come into the game on the back of the bitter loss of superstar Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record fee of £198m, and will hope to prove that there is life after the Brazilian in the first clasico of the new season.

Los Blancos, meanwhile, come into the game on a high having added the European Super Cup to their coffers with a midweek victory over Manchester United, and will hope to take steps towards adding yet another trophy to their cabinet on Sunday.


Classic Encounter

Real Madrid 3 – 4 Barcelona (23/03/14)

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga

With so many amazing Clasico ties to choose from, including the most recent, a notorious Liga tie based on Lionel Messi’s iconic goal celebration alone, we eventually settled on this clash of titans during the 2013/14 season.

Though the league was eventually won by Atletico Madrid in this year, this game went some way towards making the league more competitive than it should have been.

Barcelona breathed new life into their title hopes as a Lionel Messi hat-trick helped fire them to victory in a thrilling match against a 10-man Real Madrid. Sergio Ramos (who else) was the pantomime villain here, with his 63rd minute sending off handing Barca the impetus to overturn a 3-2 deficit.


Key Battle

Aleix Vidal vs Cristiano Ronaldo

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Vidal has managed to work his way into Barca manager Valverde’s thinking with a series of impressive pre-season displays, keeping new €32m signing Nelson Semedo out of the side in recent games.

He will face his stiffest test yet on Sunday however, as he comes up against arguably the world’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese will be fresh having featured late against Manchester United in midweek, and can be expected to probe Vidal at every given opportunity.


Team News

UEFA Super Cup - Previews

Madrid will find themselves without the services of Luka Modric for the first leg. The Croat received a red card the last time Los Blanco’s featured in this game (2014) and has seen his suspension carry over from that period.

Outside of this, there are no injury worries within the squad.

The same can be said for Barcelona, whose only long term absentee, former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen, has been absent from first team duty in general for several seasons.


Prediction

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For all Barcelona’s undoubted quality, Madrid have been in simply sensational form in 2017, and it can be expected that they will continue this run against their rivals here.

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi will undoubtedly have an impact on the game, with Barca expected to score against a Madrid team who struggle to keep clean sheets against them, but at the other end of the park Barca’s fragile defence should be no match for the restored BBC with Isco and Kroos creating behind them.

Barcelona 1 – 3 Real Madrid


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Picking the Best Potential Real Madrid Lineup to Face Barcelona on Sunday Evening

​Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid stars pay visit to the Nou Camp on Sunday evening, as the Spanish Super Cup lays claim to the first official Clasico of the new season.

Los Blancos come into this fixture on the back of an impressive midweek display against Manchester United, when they secured the European Super Cup.

With yet another trophy to play for, and against their most bitter rivals no less, here’s how the Spanish giants might line up for this one:

Goalkeeper

  • Navas

    Navas1

​The Costa Rican has established himself as Madrid’s unanimous number one in the seasons following the David de Gea scandal. Loved by his manager and teammates, he will hope to bounce back following the poor concession of a goal against Manchester United in midweek.

Defence

  • Carvajal

    Carvajal2

  • Varane

    Varane5

  • S. Ramos

    S. Ramos4

  • Marcelo

    Marcelo12

​A full strength defensive complement which ultimately picks itself following the departure of veteran Pepe. 

Rafa Varane is finally the undisputed starter alongside captain Sergio Ramos, whilst Carvajal and Marcelo have become stalwarts in the full back positions.

Madrid have failed to keep a clean sheet against Barca in competitive play since 2010, but will have trust in this defence to nullify their unsettled forward line.

Midfield

  • Kroos

    Kroos8

  • Casemiro

    Casemiro14

  • Isco

    Isco22

​In midfield Croat star Luka Modric has found himself suspended for the first leg of this tie following his sending off the last time Madrid appeared in the Super Cup in 2014! 

New signing Dani Ceballos may push for a start here, whilst fellow Croat Mateo Kovacic could also be in consideration.

However, it is more likely that Zidane insists on a change of shape and Isco drops back into the midfield three. The Spaniard, who his teammates refer to as ”magic” has forced his way into the team as an attacking midfielder and is more than capable of filling the void left by Modric.

Forwards

  • Bale

    Bale11

  • Benzema

    Benzema9

  • Ronaldo

    Ronaldo7

Modric’ absence saves Zidane a selection dilemma, as Isco’s form has seen him come in at the expense of one of Madrids triumvirate of attacking superstars.

However, it is most likely that for this game at least, Zidane unleashes Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo (the BBC) on Barcelona’s defence.

Whether all three start in the second leg is up in the air.

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Kylian Mbappe Transfer Saga Takes Another Turn as Report Claims Real Madrid Give Up Chase

​Another twist in the seemingly never ending Kylian Mbappe transfer story has occurred. The French forward could be set for Paris Saint-Germain, after a report claimed his request an enormous €12m per year from La Liga champions Real Madrid was rejected.

It’s been one of the stories of the summer. 18-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe broke into the Monaco side last season and took the world by storm, as Europe’s biggest and richest sat up and readied their chequebooks.

On Thursday, the youngster was reported to have agreed a deal to leave the Ligue 1 title winners for PSG, in a €180m deal. However, ​Monaco since denied those claims.

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Meanwhile, according to Spanish journalist Hector Fernandez, Real Madrid have given up on landing the wonderkid, after he demanded a yearly income of €12m – which has been offered to him by PSG.

However, despite this claim, reports in France are claiming that Monaco have denied any agreement with PSG regarding their young striker.

​Le Parisien state that inside Monaco sources are adamant that no contact has been made with their Ligue 1 rivals, and that reports of a €180m agreement hold no substance to them.

​​This news all arrives after Mbappe is believed to have told Monaco that he wishes to leave the club  – the reason thought to be due to the exodus of star players this summer.

With Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy both joining Manchester City during this window, and central midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko linking up with Antonio Conte at Chelsea, the club seem to have been stripped for parts. 

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Furthermore, it’s looking ever more likely that Thomas Lemar could be on his way to Arsenal – which may well be the final nail in the coffin for Mbappe.

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Isco Reportedly Pens New Real Madrid Contract With Enormous Release Clause

Real Madrid star Isco has reportedly signed a new four-year contract with the club that will keep him at the Bernabeu until at least the summer of 2021, while raising his release clause to a huge €700m. A formal announcement is expected next week after the Spanish Super Cup.

The news comes from Spanish outlet AS, whose report explains that Isco will also now earn a salary of €6m each season. His contract also comes with an optional fifth year to 2022.

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Perhaps most interesting is the enormous new release clause. The midfielder’s previous clause was rumoured to be €150m and increasing it by such a significant amount falls in line with Los Blancos ensuring that their player’s clauses are seen as deterrents to buyers, not incentives.

A source told AS: “There are no players in Madrid’s first-team squad with a clause below €500m, and in Castilla [Real’s ‘B’ team], there are now players with clauses of €300m.”

Real are obviously keen not to fall into the same trap as Clásico rivals Barcelona, who lost superstar Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain after the French club triggered his €222m clause. Even Lionel Messi only has a €300m figure written into his contract, which is no longer seen as an impossible fee.


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After previously struggling to establish himself, Isco emerged as one of Real’s key players in the closing stages of last season as the club captured La Liga and Champions League honours.

He was one of the stars of the show as Real then beat Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup this week to kick off the new season with an early trophy.

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Report Claims Barcelona Consider Shock Move for €80m Real Madrid Star as Cheaper Neymar Replacement

Rumours emerging from Spain claim that Barcelona are considering activating the €80m buyout clause of Real Madrid starlet Marco Asensio, as a viable alternative to more expensive targets Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.

Spanish outlet ​Diario Gol claim that Barcelona executives have met to discuss the possibility of a move for the 21-year-old, as they look to replace Neymar, who left for Paris Saint-Germain in a record £200m move. 

Asensio, who signed for Real last summer for just €4m from Mallorca, impressed in his debut season with Los Blancos, featuring in 23 La Liga games and scoring in the Champions League final win over Juventus.

The idea of a deal being struck between fierce rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona seems crazy, but Barça are apparently keen to investigate alternative transfer options after seeing bids for Coutinho and Dembele rejected.

Champions League holders Real already boast a congested attack force, while Asensio is currently behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and Gareth Bale for a starting spot – while the likes of Lucas Vasquez provides further competition.

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Asensio was a key figure in Spain’s Under-21 side that reached the final of the European Championship – scoring a hat-trick and serving up several man of the match performances.

In addition to Asensio, the report claims Barça are also considering an even more daring move for Isco, whose release clause is set at around €150m.


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The Catalans have been heavily-linked with several targets since Neymar’s dramatic exit, but Dembele and Coutinho – who would each cost around £100m seem the most likely. 

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AS Monaco Deny Agreement With Paris Saint-Germain Despite Reports of €180m Mbappe Deal

Reports claim that French champions AS Monaco have denied that an agreement has been met with Paris Saint-Germain for the €180m transfer of teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe is understandably one of Europe’s hottest properties and has been linked with an array of Europe’s biggest clubs this summer after a breakout season, in which he scored 15 league goals for Monaco and reached the Champions League semi finals.

After links to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and even Arsenal earlier in the transfer window, Monaco’s domestic rivals PSG made headlines on Thursday, despite already shelling out a world-record fee of £200m for Neymar from Barcelona.

Spanish paper Marca on Thursday claimed that PSG had spectacularly outbid all competition and agreed a deal for with Monaco for the 18-year-old striker and could even announce the deal as earlier as next week.

However, those suggestions appear to have been immediately refuted by Monaco sources, who, according to Le Parisien, claim that there have been no offers from their domestic rival for the 18-year-old attacker.

Both Monaco and PSG are yet to officially comment on the reports, while Real Madrid and Barcelona too may yet still have a say in any deal to be done this summer.

Monaco have already lost a number of key members from their Ligue 1 winning squad from last term. Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy have joined Manchester City for a combined total of close to £100m, while Tiemoue Bakayoko has linked up with Premier League champions Chelsea. 

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With Thomas Lemar, Fabinho and Mbappe all near-constantly linked away too, the club faces a tough battle to retain the title in 2018.

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Real President Reveals Signing Barcelona Icon Was Like ‘Ripping Out the Hearts’ of Their Rivals

​Real Madrid successfully managing to lure Luis Figo away from bitter rivals Barcelona in 2000 was like ‘ripping out the hearts’ of everyone in Spain.

That is according to Los Blancos’ president Florentino Perez, who was quoted in the ​Daily Express as he revealed how tough it was to prise the legendary winger away from the Nou Camp 17 years ago.

Figo completed a shock transfer from Catalunya to the Santiago Bernabeu for a fee worth in the region of €60m – then a world record transfer fee – with the switch making the fierce rivalry between the two La Liga giants even more contentious in the seasons that followed.

The Portugal international was the subject of plenty of ire from Barcelona fans after that move, with one fan infamously throwing a pig’s head onto the pitch during one El Clasico match at the Nou Camp in November 2002 as Figo went to take a corner for Real.

The fall out between the two heavyweight clubs since then has only grown steadily worse, and Perez admitted for the first time just how much of a struggle it was to persuade Figo to join them from La Blaugrana.

He said: “Nobody had spent 60 million euros in 2000 I convinced him but it was not easy, he was the captain of Barcelona! It was like ripping out the hearts of our countrymen.”

Real Madrid CF v Granada CF - La Liga

Figo spent five seasons with Real, making 245 appearances in all competitions and lifting eight trophies including the 2002 Champions League and two La Liga titles, before his departure in the summer of 2005.

That period at the very start of the 21st Century brought about the era of the ‘Galacticos’ at Real Madrid, with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Ronaldo all playing alongside Figo between 2000 and 2007.

Perez went on to state that he promised the 127-times capped international that he would build a hugely successful team around him and, considering the trophy haul Real nabbed during that spell, he kept to his word.

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Perez added: “I told him that we wanted to build this project around him. Then came [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldo, [David] Beckham, and we created the phenomenon of the Galacticos.”

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Toni Kroos Completes 96% of Passes for Real Madrid in Dominant Midfield Display Against Man Utd

​Toni Kroos completed 73 of his 76 passes in Real Madrid’s 2-1 Super Cup win over Manchester United, ​OptaJose has revealed.

The German playmaker was successful with an impressive 96% of his attempted passes, and made at least 30 more than any United player.

In a dominant midfield display, Kroos played 26.3% of his passes forward and 35.5% to the right. Only 18.4% of the balls he played went backward.

The former Bayern Munich man demonstrated both the unerring accuracy and dynamism of his passing range as Los Blancos ended the game with 64% possession.

Kroos, since signing for Real Madrid for just £20m in 2014, has averaged a consistent 93% passing accuracy.

As well as his potency when picking out teammates, Kroos has also proved one of Real Madrid’s most reliable players in recent years.

Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg

Since his arrival, the 27-year-old has played 147 of his side’s 171 games, which equates to 86%.

That is just one game behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Los Blancos’ most regular appearance maker, in the same period of time.

Kroos has averaged almost 50 appearances per season for Real Madrid, which at the current rate, could mean that he surpasses 200 total games for the club by the end of this campaign.

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Last season he was instrumental for Zinedine Zidane’s side, playing 48 of 60 games as his side won La Liga and the Champions League.

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Luka Modric to Miss Out First Leg of Spanish Super Cup Due to Something That Occurred 3 Years Ago

​Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric will play no part in his side’s Super Cup meet with rivals Barcelona when the teams go head to head this weekend, per ​Marca.

The La Liga giants will play out the first leg of the tie on Sunday, with the second leg set to take place on Wednesday.

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Modric will be eligible to partake in the midweek fixture, but he won’t be able to suit up on Sunday, and he may not even remember the reason – as it’s from three years ago.

The Croatian was sent off for two bookable offences in a Super Cup match against Atletico Madrid in August of 2014, hence receiving a ban. He is now set to serve that ban three years later.

The rules state that a suspended player will only serve out a ban in the very competition he was penalised in if it’s based off two yellows. A straight red would have seen him sit out the following La Liga match, but as that wasn’t the case, it’s only right that he gets to sit out the first leg of the next Super Cup.

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Modric showed great form in pre-season, also performing spectacularly against Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup this week.  Zinedine Zidane will now have to look at alternatives, and it is believed that Mateo Kovacic will be the one who gets the nod.

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