The first leg of the Spanish Super Cup has already given us a taster of what is to come this season regarding Spain's big rivalry, but now it is over to the youngsters who will battle it out this weekend to decide which team's academy reigns supreme.
Barcelona B will travel to Madrid on Saturday night to take on newly promoted Real Madrid Castilla in Spain's second division.
It is the first time in fourteen years that the two teams will meet, and after both narrowly losing on the opening day of the season each team will be eager to bag themselves three points.
The last time the two teams met was in 1998, in a playoff to determine who would be promoted from Spain's Segunda B. Castilla took the first leg 5-0, before Barcelona took some consolation in a 2-0 return leg victory.
Interestingly, fourteen years ago, two familiar faces were part of Barca's reserve team: those of current Blaugrana legends Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez.
So who will star this year in the Mini-Clasico? Let's take a closer look.
Real Madrid Castilla
Los Blancos had the benefit of taking a full strength team into their Segunda division debut. It was their first match in Spain's second tier since the '06/'07 season in which they finished 19th. Unfortunately, they had the tough test of recently relegated Villareal, who are among the favourites to earn promotion this year.
Jesé's penalty put his side ahead, only to eventually lose 2-1. The young Madridistas, however, have plenty to prove after a rather unconvincing general performance.
Results Last Five Games: L-W-W-W-W
Last Game: Villareal CF (Cavenaghi 45', 80') 2-1 Real Madrid Castilla (Jesé 19' PG)
FC Barcelona B
Barca B took on Almeria at home in their first outing of the season and impressed in a thrilling match despite eventually losing 4-5.
Promising duo Dongou and Gerard Deulofeu scored early goals for the Catalans, but by the break they found themselves on level terms and reduced to ten men as left back Carles Planas was sent off in the 44th minute. Despite this set back they bagged two more goals (Deulofeu completing his hattrick), but fell one goal short of Almeria's five.
Clearly Barca have a few defensive issues to sort out.
Results Last Five Games: L-W-W-L-L
Last Game: Barcelona B (Dongou 5' , Gerard 12', 57', 90') 4-5 Almeria (Soriano 13', 48', Charles 19', Ulloa 82', Fernández 88')
Real Madrid Castilla
Castilla should, again, have a full strength team.
Predicted Starting XI:
Fabinho - Mateos - Nacho - Casado
Álex - Mosquera
Denis - Jesé - Juanfran
FC Barcelona B
Left back Carles Planas will be suspended after being sent off in his side's first outing of the season. New signings Sergio Juste and Edgar Ié are out injured.
However, Eusebio Sacristán's biggest issue will be whether his stars Cristian Tello and Sergi Roberto will be available. Both players missed the opening game as they were called up to the first team, and again they were called up by Vilanova for the Spanish Super Cup.
With Alex Song likely to be part of the first team's match day squad for the weekend, however, Roberto may be available for selection.
Predicted Starting XI:
Balliu - Gómez - Lombán - Grimaldo
Roberto - Ilie - Rafinha
Kiko - Dongou - Deulofeu
Jesé Rodriguez: A future star of the Bernabeu.
The Canarian attacker was recently the top scorer at the UEFA Euro U19s tournament with five goals (via Uefa.com). Similarly, he bagged 10 in 34 starts last campaign, playing a key role in helping his side to promotion (via Soccerway.com).
His fleetness of foot, trickery and eye for goal have drawn comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo. He will provide Castilla's main threat in attack.
A recent loan acquisition from Portuguese side Rio Ave, the 18-year-old Brazilian right back was impressive in his Madrid debut. He excels going forward in a similar style to his countrymen Marcelo and Dani Alves.
He will have to be careful, however—he could be charged with the task of marking Blaugrana dangerman Deulofeu.
The 21-year-old Spanish winger will start on the bench, but his impact could be pivotal. He possesses excellent touch, ball control and is dangerous in one on one situations. His skills could expose Barca's defence late on.
Gerard Deulofeu is in marvellous form.
In a recent article I claimed that Deulofeu is Barca's most exciting youngster, and based on his hattrick last week he's living up to that billing. If you have not seen the marvellous free kick he scored you should check it out here.
Like Jesé, he starred at the recent U19s Euro tournament and has looked good all preseason. Since Tello and Cuenca have received more time with the first team he's stepped up in their absence as his team's attacking talisman. With nine goals in 23 starts last season he was the B team's top scorer.
My guess is he'll score in this game.
He may not even make the trip to Madrid, but if he does he will surely have a huge impact on the game.
In preseason with the first team he was particularly impressive, getting the second most minutes of any player (via MundoDeportivo.com). He clearly has Tito Vilanova's vote of confidence and B team manager Eusebio claims he "is ready for the first team".
He was awarded man of the match in Barcelona's seasonal curtain raiser Gamper Trophy and he would surely show his quality if he plays in this one.
Sergi Gómez & David Lombán
Barca B have lost no fewer than four of its best defenders this season, with Muniesa, Bartra and Montoya all being promoted. Experienced Armando was lost to Mexican side Veracruz.
Thus, it will clearly take time for the the new back four to jell. Conceding five goals in their opening fixture was not a good start. Granted, Planas was sent off, but new centre back pairing Gómez and Lombán must improve.
Real Madrid Castilla clearly enjoy playing at their Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium. They have won all of their last five home games (via Soccerway.com).
Those results were in La Segunda B division, however, and the step up will prove a significant challenge.
Barcelona B, on the other hand, are now playing in their third straight season in Spain’s second division. They have ended in the top half of the table in their two previous seasons (finishing third and eighth respectively).
As I said, after losses in their opening fixtures both teams will be looking for three points, but these two teams will not need any more motivation than the sight of the badge on their opposition's shirt.
Influential Castilla midfielder Álex has assured that the rivalry will be an intense affair. Speaking with RealMadrid.com he remarked that "it is not every day that you experience a mini-clásico... it will be one of the highlights of my career".
The young Madrid side are the underdogs in this matchup, having been recently promoted and coming up against a seasoned Barca B outfit. The Blancos were not nearly as impressive in their first game either. That being said, the Catalans have an influx of fresh faces and their shaky defence could be exposed by the likes of Jesé and Juanfran.
I expect plenty of goals, an entertaining game, and ultimately a win for Barcelona. Gerard Deulofeu will be the star of the show yet again.
Final Prediction: Castilla 1 - 3 Barca B
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Remember to check up on B/R as well after the game and I will hope to bring you a comprehensive review of an entertaining game!
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