"El Clasico" is back again! On August 23, the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup kicks off at 10:30 PM local time in the Camp Nou. Matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona have been notoriously heated, with everything from a pig's head to eye-poking coaches.
Even though the Spanish giants are the best teams currently and possibly throughout their respective histories, there have still been unnecessary fouling, outrageous diving and numerous red cards.
Indeed, this Super Cup might have all that and more, so here are some of my predictions for the match.
Be sure to watch the match. Even for a neutral, it's one of the best battles in European football.
Pepe, who has a reputation of being violent and of being a red-card machine, will not be be playing after a nasty collision with Iker Casillas against Valencia. Pepe stayed in the hospital overnight and will not play in the Super Cup as a precautionary measure.
Raul Albiol will be very careful, especially after his careless red card against La Blaugrana last year and questionable future with Real Madrid. It is unlikely that Raphael Varane plays, but if he does, Varane is a very clean defender with only 10 fouls committed in 15 matches in last season.
Furthermore, with the absence of Pepe, the defense will be much more cautious of a ban in fear of defense-depletion in the second leg. Despite these defensive lapses, Mourinho will most likely go for a very defensive approach away against Barcelona. In other words, the team will "park the bus" in front of their own goal.
Hopefully, the players, and the coaches for that matter, do not get red carded to allow fans to enjoy football without refereeing controversies!
Barcelona and Spain's left back was one of the best scoring defenders of Euro 2012. Alba assisted on a Xabi Alonso goal against France and scored the second goal in the final against Italy. The Spaniard's attacking movement and agility is amazing, and he is an essential component of the attack with accurate crosses, key passes and some well-timed goals.
Many have doubted Alba's defensive prowess after his signing from Valencia, saying that because of his ambitious ventures forward, he will be caught out of position.
After his questionable performance with the Spanish Olympic team, many believed that he would not be able to defensively cover the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria. However, he might surprise you this time.
With his speed, I think Alba will do very well against di Maria, especially if Alba is able to refrain from attacking too far up the field. Alba will be essential to both the Catalans' attack and defense if he is able to manage his multiple roles well.
Although many say the diving habits of players like di Maria, Sergio Busquets, Ronaldo, Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves have died down from last year, in the heat of "El Clasico," their "skills" will re-emerge. Because of the pressure to win from both sides, the bad habits of these frequent divers will be up for display at the Camp Nou.
This obvious cheating has been one of the main criticisms of the Spanish powerhouses, as it takes away from the enjoyment of the game.
Hopefully, there will not be excessive diving, but knowing the history of these two teams, I do not see the diving decreasing.
Real Madrid's La Liga campaign against Valencia started out great with Gonzalo Higuain scoring in the 10th minute.
The goals of Los Blancos against Barcelona have been similarly early. Mesut Ozil scored in the 13th minute of last year's Super Cup. Sami Khedira scored in the 17th minute in La Liga. Ronaldo netted one in the 11th minute of Copa Del Rey, and Karim Benzema tallied in the first minute against Barcelona.
From the history, I think Real Madrid will get off to an amazing start like they have most recently done. However, given that the match is in the Camp Nou, there is a large possibility that this will not happen, given the difficulty of the away ground.
Messi (who had a brace), along with the rest of Barcelona forward line, was on fire against Real Sociedad with a 5-1 romp of the Basques at the Camp Nou.
Also, with David Villa back and scoring, he could be a surprise threat like in the last Super Cup. Remember his video game-esque goal against Los Merengues in the Super Cup?
On the other hand, Real Madrid looked static against a Valencia side who was not at their best. Although they started well, their attack fizzled throughout the game, and their last ditch efforts wasted time more than anything else.
Also, without Pepe, José Mourinho's men will have a hard time keeping the likes of Messi, Cesc Fabregas and David Villa quiet, as Pepe is the foundation of the center defense; his last ditch efforts often keep Madrid competitive in games against La Blaugrana.
WIthout Pepe, Los Blancos have lost three and have drawn one, while conceding 13 goals in four games. It looks pretty grim for Real Madrid.
Hopefully, there is a fair, non-controversial match without any referee or "poking" drama to reflect the true class and history of these clubs.
Well, even though that probably will not happen, I hope that it does not overshadow the result of the match or the true talent that fans are witnessing. Given the unpredictability and volatility in these matches, it is very difficult to guess what will happen.
What are your predictions for the match? Do you think it will be drama-filled, or more subdued?
Share some of them and we will see who is the most accurate predictor.