It’s not everyday that I get to preview a European Super Cup match. You’ll forgive me for humming “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while I write this but the opportunity to add our second trophy of the season in as many weeks has me in a frenzied state. I haven’t started foaming at the mouth yet, but the lack of Liga action last weekend certainly isn’t helping. Every trophy matters as this Barcelona team looks to enshrine themselves in the history books.
Porto, meanwhile, will be looking to write their own history and lift the Cup for only the second time in their history. You have to go back to 1987 for their last win, as the failed to win in both 2003 and 2004. As an aside, that makes this the only competition other than La Liga that Mourinho has participated in and not won at least once. Neener Neener. Porto earned their place after they blitzed their way through the Europa League last season, winning 12, drawing 1, and losing 2 with an attacking brand of football under up-and coming manager Andre Villas-Boas.
While Villas-Boas has taken the unenviable task of guiding Chelsea through a transition period, expect Porto to play much the same as the did last year. New manager Vitor Pereira hasn’t made many changes or had to deal with losing many players. Their leading scorer Falcao has been snapped up by Athletico and it will be up to new signing Kleber to take his place (he scored 7 goals in as many friendly matches this summer). I’m going to go ahead and predict their starting XI looks something like: Helton – Fucile Otamendi Rolando Sapunaru – Moutinho Souza Guarin – Hulk Kleber Varela. They’ve started, and won, both their league games with this lineup, and until someone corrects me in the comments I don’t believe they have any injuries.
The big injury news in the Barcelona camp is that Pique is out for this match having picked up a calf injury in training. Meawhile it won’t surprise you that Puyol and Afellay are both still recovering. Having Pique and Puyol both out gives us our first difficulties at center back of the season. Honestly, Mascherano and Abidal’s recent form has given me more free hours in the day to not worry about Puyol’s long-term injury, but missing Pique as well is a huge blow. I expect to see Mascherano and Abidal paired at the back, although I’m actually hoping to see Fontas start with Abidal playing left back.
Oier, Bartra, Dos Santos, and Cuenca have come along for the UEFA Super Cup ride. I was going to call them youth players, but it hardly seems fair to call them that when there is a decent chance any of the four will spend half their time with the first team squad this season. But I digress…
I’m not going to even bother predicting Barcelona’s starting XI, as Pep has so many options he could field 10 different line-ups without it surprising me. When everyone on the team is healthy almost no one will have a guaranteed starting spot. Well, I expect to see Messi and Valdes for every match they’re healthy for, but apart from that…
Pereira recently said in an interview “You will see our own game plan and identity; you don’t adapt to your opponent.” so we should be in for an attacking match with a lot of goals. Their record of 37 goals for and 14 against in 15 games in the Europa League isn’t too different than Barcelona’s 30 – 10 in 13 games in the Champions League. The difference of course is the difference between the Europa League and the Champions League. Anything can happen in a one-off match, but I expect Pep to have the boys ready to play.
Official Prediction: 3-2 Barcelona. I think this one has the potential to be remembered as a fantastically exciting match.
And I’m not the only one. Guardiola recently commented: “Finals are meaningful when you play against clubs with a great history…I think it will be an entertaining final, just like the Champions League was.”
Game time is 2:45 EST tomorrow.