What: Spanish Supercup (first leg)
Who: Real Madrid vs Barcelona
When: Sunday 14th August, 2011, at 21:00 UK time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

Ready for Round Two

The arrival of Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid last season following a very successful stint at Inter saw the team pick up their first piece of silverware in over two years – the Copa del Rey. Foes Barcelona clinched La Liga and Champions League accolades however, establishing themselves once more as the better team. But with Mourinho still around to shape Real Madrid, many are betting on a completely different outcome this time around.

It is an indisputable fact that the former Chelsea manager always ends up getting the best out of his side during his second season in charge of a club, a prospect that was raised as Real Madrid produced a perfect pre-season, winning all of their games. New signings such as Rafael Varane, Jose Callejon and Fabio Coentrao greatly impressed, while the Bernabeu side are still eager to see the likes of Nuri Sahin in action; the Turk is still recovering from a nagging injury that has kept him on the sideline for the entirety of pre-season.

Indeed, the nine-time European champions have the look of favourites for the Supercup, but if there is something the Clasico matches have confirmed, it is that excitement will surely be in the air once the teams take to the pitch. Two such matches are surely the best way to start the 2011/12 festivities.

Boosted by Expected Fabregas Arrival

For the third-year running, the Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona transfer mill was in full force across England and Spain. Whenever quizzed about a move, the Gunners captain answers with a mysterious smile, leaving it to the clubs to sort out what has been a tough time for him: Stay at Arsenal where he made his name or return where it all began? The decision though looks made and Fabregas will be welcomed back to the Camp Nou with open arms.

Barcelona face selection problems ahead of the Supercup’s first leg, as Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique join long-term absentee Carles Puyol in the treatment room after picking up knocks while on international duty with Spain. That said, should both be confirmed absent, then it is likely that Javier Mascherano will link up with Eric Abidal in the centre of defence, a challenge the Argentina captain will not be looking to avoid: “I would prefer that all my team-mates were available to play, but if I am picked I will try and do it [play in central defence] the same way I did last year. The advantage is that I already have experience in that position.”

The arrival of Chile star Alexis Sanchez certainly offers coach Josep Guardiola more options up front. It will be interesting to see how the former Udinese winger slots in Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation, and should he find his feet quickly at the Bernabeu, it could spell trouble for the home side.

Recent form

Real Madrid:
Leicester City 1-2 Real Madrid
(30/07; Friendly)
Guangzhou Evergrande 1-7 Real Madrid (03/08; Friendly)
Tianjin Teda 0-6 Real Madrid
(06/08; Friendly)

Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona (30/07; Friendly)
Barcelona 1-4 Chivas Guadalajara (03/08; Friendly)
Barcelona 2-0 Club America (06/08; Friendly)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Sergio Ramos (doubt); Esteban Granero (doubt); Nuri Sahin; Hamit Altintop

Barcelona: Xavi (doubt); Gerard Pique (doubt); Sergio Busquets (doubt); Carles Puyol

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Karim Benzema: The star of Real Madrid’s pre-season tour was surely French striker Benzema, who managed to embark on a scoring run as his team conquered the United States and China. Almost discarded by Mourinho a year ago, Benzema appears to be a rejuvenated figure.

Barcelona – Alexis Sanchez: As fans wait for the arrival of their beloved Fabregas, one player that will be eager to win the Blaugrana faithful over is Sanchez. Recently named as the “world’s most promising youngster” in a FIFA poll, the new Barcelona number 9 is a bag of tricks waiting to explode. Real Madrid will be hoping that does not happen at the Bernabeu.

Match Prediction

Real Madrid appear to be the stronger team going into this Supercup first leg, but that bares little value on such occasions. Barcelona are not the world’s best team for nothing and they will certainly make it a hard night for their opponents. Still on form however, Real Madrid should be able to head to the Camp Nou with a 2-1 advantage.

Don’t forget: If you fancy a bet on the Spanish Super Cup final between Real Madrid v Barcelona, check out the highest current odds and bookmakers with the best free-bets offers on Valuechecker.co.uk.