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Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid: Biggest Storylines in Spanish Supercopa 2nd Leg

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 21: Cristian Rodriguez (2ndL) of Atletico de Madrid competes for the ball with Andres Iniesta (L) of FC Barcelona and his teammate Sergio Busquets (R) during the Spanish Super Cup first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium on August 21, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2013

Gerardo Martino is just 90 minutes away from his first trophy as Barcelona manager.

The Catalan club has an edge on away goals as they take on Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Supercopa. Neymar opened his scoring account for Barcelona in the first leg and canceled out a beautiful goal from David Villa.

This is likely Atletico's only chance to compete with Barcelona for any title. Barca are still heavy favorites to finish in one of the top two spots in La Liga, and it's hard seeing them not in the Copa del Rey final either.

Barcelona have won this trophy on 10 occasions, the last coming back in 2011. Atletico have only won it once, way back in 1985.

The second leg should be a very enjoyable match. These are two of the best clubs in Spain, and in a one-off situation, Atletico can put in a performance where they outshine their opponents.

Here are three key storylines for this pivotal match.


The Health of Lionel Messi

Barcelona reported on their official site that Lionel Messi is healthy enough to be named in the 19-man squad for Wednesday's match.

However, being declared fit and actually being fit are two different things. Messi was declared fit toward the end of last season, yet he looked far from 100 percent, especially in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich.

Too often last year, Barcelona would rely too much on Messi. When he wasn't at his best, the entire team would suffer, as you'd expect any team to do without their best player.

Nobody will fully know how fit the star forward is until he gets on the pitch. There isn't anything a player can do to properly simulate a match setting. It's one thing to look healthy in training. It's another to look healthy when the referee blows the whistle.

If Messi is truly at 100 percent, Atletico Madrid will have a hard time coming out with the win, even if the star makes only a sub appearance. If he's not himself, the door will open just that little bit more for Los Colchoneros.


Will Neymar Start?

Gerardo Martino is handling Neymar with the proverbial kid gloves. He's yet to give the young Brazilian a start in any of Barcelona's first three competitive fixtures. Instead, Neymar has come on as a sub near the 64th minute in each match.

It would have seemed a great time to start him over the weekend against Malaga, but Martino opted for Pedro and Alexis Sanchez on the wings.

You don't pay €57 million for a player and not start him early in the season. It's only a matter of when Neymar will be handed his first start.

Wednesday against Atletico Madrid would be a great opportunity to make that happen, especially if Messi isn't his normal lethal self.

Neymar would take some pressure off his Argentine teammate and provide that extra bit of creativity in the attack, in addition to another finisher. Just look at how quickly he made his impact in the first leg.


What Tactical Plan Will Diego Simeone Utilize?

Diego Simeone is in a bit of a tactical pickle.

He can't afford to let his side sit back the entire match and not score. After all, if the scoreline stays the same, Atletico would lose on away goals.

If Atletico go too much on the attack, they leave open the possibility of being torn open on the counter.

Since moving to the Vicente Calderon, Simeone's stock has risen through the roof. He's brought an intensity and discipline to a club that is so often in turmoil. Atletico press like crazy and try to get the physical edge on the opposition.

That's the kind of system that gave Barcelona fits last year, and it's the same system Brazil used to bludgeon Spain in the Confederations Cup.

Atletico have enough in the attack with Arda Turan, Diego Costa and David Villa to get a crucial away goal. Villa had a moment of brilliance in the first leg and is still one of the better finishers in the world. Turan and Costa provide some width and creativity from out wide.

Simeone has to gamble in order to prevail in the second leg. The key will be to gamble at the right time and make sure his side remains organized in defence.

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