Spanish SuperCopa: As things stand right now, aka “A sorta preview”

It’s SuperCopa time, or what might be, potentially, the first of as many as SEVEN El Clasics this season (2 SuperCopas, 2 Ligas, 1 Copa final(?), 2 Champions League).

And I know that it’s us vs them but try as I might, I just can’t get too worked up about this SuperCopa, or any SuperCopa, for that matter. So I am going to hope that this half-assed preview will serve to get me …. or at least some of you, geeked at squaring off against the Evil Empire. And if an image of a sweaty, triumphant Captain doesn’t do it, nothing will.

This was bound to happen, and really will probably happen a bunch more times in coming seasons, when the winner of the Plat del Reig squares off against the winner of La Liga. Last season it was Sevilla as Copa winners, and us as Liga winners. It served as another building block in our pre-season, as we were pretty stanky in the first leg, before putting things right in the second leg and hoisting the trophy. And there was much rejoicing, because silver is silver, right? Right?

Nope. Still not excited.

Let’s try this: We’re facing our most bitter rival for silverware, bragging rights and a leg up going into the Liga season (eventually, when that strike business gets resolved). The losing side will be trembling in fear at the thought of the first Clasic, as that side will have already lost to the other, for silver, no less.

Mmmm, nope …. because Guardiola teams don’t work like that. They’re a group that seems to have no institutional memory. Lost to a team the last 43 times you played them on a Sunday in a month beginning in A at a certain stadium? So? “We’re just focused on this match, and we will take our chances. The team is unified ….” So the statistic that we have never defeated EE in a SuperCopa fills us all with dread, right?

Maybe not. And strange as it might seem, given the dominance of the two rivals in the Liga, it hasn’t been since 1997 that we have faced EE in a SuperCopa, where we went down 5-3 on aggregate in the home/away two-legged affair. REMUNTADA!

Sigh …. still isn’t working.

They are rolling into the season with a perfect pre-season record on the various tours and exhibitions that big clubs undertake these days, rather than a proper pre-season. We are coming off a spotty roll-up that included a messy Audi Cup win in penalties, a loss to Manchester United and the first 3-goal spanking of the Guardiola era before concluding with a win, 2-0 against Club America in our last outing. On paper, they’re the favorite, right?

Well, maybe not. No. 2 always has to try harder, and Guardiola teams have a history of not getting all that excited about matches that don’t matter a whole lot, rarely having sparkling exhibition seasons. Complicating matters is that key players have been either nursing injuries or on extended holiday, as Guardiola understands the necessity of the joys of August and their contribution to ameliorating the debilitating effects of what is going to be a loooong season for us. They have made smart signings, been working hard and are fit and raring to go. We, conversely, are kinda not. Sorta. But we’re getting there. Now we roll the ball out, and off we go.

Mascherano: “The season is long, the result of the Super Cup won’t affect that, but winning could give us boost for what’s ahead this month”

Guardiola: “It’s a final: no excuses”

Excited yet?

The Squad

Wait a minute …. when did we get depth? Let’s look at the squad that will be traveling to XXXXXX for Sunday’s first leg:

Midfielders: Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Mascherano, Dos Santos*, Thiago
Attackers: Messi, Villa, Pedro, Afellay, Sanchez
Keepers: Valdes, Pinto
Defenders: Alves, Montoya*, Pique, Puyol, Fontas, Abidal, Muniesa*, Adriano, Maxwell

That’s 22 players, kids, a nice, healthy, full-sized squad. But if you note the asteisks, denoting players who aren’t official first-teamers, the strategy of Guardiola becomes clear: The core is 19 players, who are all versatile enough to play almost anywhere on the pitch. Adriano was an excellent, marauding right back against Club America (recall the excellent cross that he put right on the head of Villa for the first goal), Mascherano is as comfortable in the back line as he is at DM, etc, etc. Any holes will be filled with B-teamers who are almost ready, such as Montoya, Muniesa and Dos Santos. And you can expect to see others for certain matches, such as early-round Copa draws and the like.

So maybe Guardiola wasn’t crazy when he said today, “Signing another player apart from Cesc, a defender? No, we don’t need another defender or player this summer.” (Note: Guardiola mentioned the name of HeWhoIsNotToBeNamed, not me. And if that player comes …. okay, when that player comes, we will have a 20-man squad. Not bad. Not perfect, but not bad.) Note, however, that Pique and Busquets are nursing owies from the recent friendly vs Italy, Puyol is still recovering from knee surgery and Xavi might or might not have something wrong. But Mascherano says that Messi is rocking in practice like it’s mid-season.

I’d go with: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Abidal, Adriano, Mascherano, Iniesta, Xavi, Villa, Messi, Sanchez

Guardiola says that Sanchez isn’t fully integrated, I say so what? Let’s see what this dude has, right now, with the quickness. We always have Pedro and Afellay as super subs (think about that for a second …. not Jeffren and Krkic, but Afellay and Pedro or Sanchez or HeWhoWillNotBeNamed (eventually).

All of which means what? That I’m still not that excited about the SuperCopa, just as I won’t be excited about the UEFA SuperCup or the World Club Championship or the Plat del Reig. Because once again this season, I want the Liga and Champions League. Another 6 trophy season? Sure, why not. It’s an admirable pursuit. We did it before and we can do it again, right? I’ll take your word for it.


I’m usually pretty terrible at this stuff, but I think we’re going down, 2-0 at their house, then we win 2-1 at home to yield a close, but decisive aggregate score. Then our squad comes together in mid to late September, and sweeps all before it in triumph. Yup.

3 p.m. CDT Sunday, on GolTV in North America, which means starting the season with a big ol’ dose of Ray Ray.

"Hey guys, come on .... cheer up! These cups are cool!"
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Posts

Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Vj
    August 13, 2011

    I’d go with:

    Alves – Pique – Abidal – Adriano

    Xavi – Busi – Iniesta

    P! – Thiago – Villa

    With Messi subbing in for Villa..

  2. Anonymous_69
    August 13, 2011

    Considering Madrid’s form, and our players’ (lack of) fitness and preperation, and considering we are playing away, and it is the first leg, I would go with:





    Assuming Busquets shakes off his knock. Playing with a double pivot will be really helpful, and it will make using two attacking fullbacks secure defensively. I wouldn’t play Xavi in the first leg. If Pep wants to go more offensive and still not risk Xavi, maybe he can drop Messi deep and put Sanchez in there, but I know he won’t do that.

    • outerspacedout
      August 13, 2011

      No Busquets in the squad Kevin put up as travelling to M*****.

  3. outerspacedout
    August 13, 2011

    We’re expected to lose? Looking much worse? Okay then I’m saying we will get a decisive win.

  4. mom4
    August 13, 2011

    Busi is travelling with the squad, but did not practice with the group.
    If we’re truly gonna go for this:
    Alves, Pique, Abi, Adriano
    Xaviniesta, Mascherano
    subs- Thiago, Keita and Alexis(for a quick welcome to our world)

    • htMillBay
      August 13, 2011

      I have the same starting lineup. I think whoever are the most fit at this stage is a major consideration. Keita and Thiago subbing for Xavi and Pedro due to fitness reasons. Montoya and JDS subbing for the grownups once we’re up 2-0. Messi and Thiago w/the goals. Alexis coming on for a 15 minute cameo just to make the Almeria fans tremble w/dread of the future. Oh, we’re not playing Almeria? Yikes!

      Aren’t Affelay and Muniesa out w/pulled hammies? Maybe they’re just along for the field trip.

      I think EE has an excellent chance of winning this first leg. Forget about all those all-star fantasy elevens conjured by newspaper reporters to beat Barca. EE is the real world all-star team assembled to beat Barca, and now its their 2nd year under mad cow and will be better coordinated. I also think Mou spent a lot of equity w/the Madridistas with the anti-football in last year’s clasicos so will play straight-up this time. EE players will still give those elbows and kicks when the ref is not looking but they will actually try to win the game. I think Barca will be happy for a draw and go for the win at Nou.

      • htMillBay
        August 13, 2011

        oops, too many subs. You mean this isn’t a meaningless friendly?

  5. August 13, 2011

    – Winning the Super Cup is a huge psychological boost for Real Madrid in their quest to knock Barca down and inherit the thrown of current football. Mou considers this match as a project. If Barcelona wins, thats a slap on the face and a punch for moral before the start of the season. It will also leave an impact on the coming classico- in the Liga. So yea, it is not life or death title, but it is still a very important match to win.

    In fact this is not about winning the Super Cup. Its about winning the clasico and either create momentum or start on the back foot the first weeks of the liga – and while approaching the liga clasico.

    – If all forwards are fit, I dont think its a good idea to start Sanchez instead of Pedro – for many many reasons. But he will play his time in this game.

    • ooga aga
      August 13, 2011

      agree. to the extent that media BS seeps into the camp, having conventional wisdom placing us ahead of RM can only be good. we should really try to win this thing.

    • August 13, 2011

      Exactly, it’ll be a major psychological victory for the Egg Whites if they start the season by beating us. Not really about the Super Cup at all.

  6. ooga aga
    August 13, 2011

    yeah muniesa is hurt but he travelled with the team — 23 not 22.

  7. ooga aga
    August 13, 2011

    rule #1. do not predict a barca loss even if this is what you think. this is the most popular english barca blog on the interweb and lots of people are reading. positive thinking, brother. 🙂

    • August 13, 2011

      Barcelona fans are genetically pessimist, Barcelona win trophies. That’s how it worked pretty well so far. If one side of the equation changes, the other might change as well.

      So keep it this way!

      • ooga aga
        August 13, 2011

        okie dokie, but i think we will win, and that didnt work for the first 7 years or so of my fanship, but its worked pretty well the last 5 or 6.

  8. Vj
    August 13, 2011

    The BPL is such a Man’s league. People don’t dive at the slightest of touch, players don’t surround the ref and they don’t dive. Yeah right!

    Comedy gold going down at Newcastle..

  9. Judas Pissed
    August 13, 2011

    Mourinho press conference as reported by Sport:

    ‘El Mourinho de siempre apareció cuando se le preguntó si había aprendido de los errores tácticos cometidos en sus últimos duelos ante el Barça. “Lo único que he aprendido es que no se pueden decir las verdades”, fue la respuesta del luso’

    ‘Mourinho always appeared, when asked if he had learned from the tactical errors made in their last match against Barca. “The only thing I’ve learned is that you can not tell the truth,” was the response of Luso.’

    Here we go again – Put. Another. Record. On…

  10. BarcaGirl_Indo
    August 13, 2011

    I’m very pessimistic and still have a trauma from El Clasico marathon..
    I tried to be excited and feel optimistic with this game, and still don’t feel it..

    However it doesnt stop me from praying though..
    I’m really praying we are lucky enough to get a draw in Evil Ground, and get a win at Camp Nou..

Leave a Reply