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
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
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
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
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.