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FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Super Cup

The first Clasico of the season arrives on Thursday at the Camp Nou in a rematch of last year's Super Cup final between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Last year Real Madrid came into the match firing on all cylinders while FC Barcelona was sputtering with a fairly low key pre-season and a returning Messi who had yet to play with the club. Despite this difference in form, both teams put up a great fight in both legs of the competition with FC Barcelona doing just enough to win the contest and the first title of the season. Of course, Real Madrid would have the last laugh by winning the league, while FC Barcelona had to settle for the 4 "minor" trophies (Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, World Club Cup and the Copa del Rey).

Sadly, the only thing most people remember about last year's encounter is this:

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While both managers were to be suspended for this match, the league has let them off the hook for no real good reason other than to avoid the embarrassment of having both managers sitting on the sidelines for this big event.

So, onto the new season and the new Clasico Super Cup. What can we expect from this match that would set it apart from the overdose of Clasicos we've seen the past 2 seasons? The simple answer: Nothing. The more things change, the more they stay the same:

Tito Villanova - Perhaps the biggest change will be the absence of Pep Guardiola at the helm for FC Barcelona. However, over the pre-season and during La Liga's opener against Real Sociadad, FC Barcelona has looked like Pep's FC Barcelona. While it seems that Tito has gone back to Pep's version of the team during his first 3 years, rather than the more experimental team of his 4th and final year (3 man defense, Cesc in nowhere land, etc...), the style of play, the focus on possession and pressure is all the same.

Jose Mouriho - Despite his recent comments that he should be "The Only One" rather than "The Speical One", he's actually coming off as a bit more passive so far this season in the early stages. Perhaps winning the league last year over FC Barcelona has actually calmed him down, or perhaps he realizes that it's a long season and there is no reason to get too involved in the early stages.

Messi - Back to his usual tricks, Messi looked every bit his stellar self in the Liga opener at the weekend. He scored his 2 goals, he played brilliant passes, and he made defenders look like school children. He played in his first pre-season in several years, scoring a team high 6 goals. There is no sign that Messi will be slowing down.

Ronaldo - Ronaldo himself came out in the press saying he was not yet in top form, and that he hopes to be in top form soon enough. Surely he'll get there, but he was far from the brightest player on the pitch in Real Madrid's opener against Valencia at the weekend, a 1-1 draw that could have been worse if Soldado's goal had not been wrongly ruled offside.

The Rest of FCB - FC Barcelona have made some moves in the off season. First they brought in Jordi Alba at LB to replace Eric Abidal who remains with the team but is unlikely to have a significant impact in the first half of the season (if at all) due to his illness. Jordi Alba impressed for Spain at the Euro's, and has been equally impressive in his first few matches with FC Barcelona. They also picked up Song from Arsenal, though he has yet to make his debut having only just signed today. Perhaps the biggest addition to the team, however, will be the return from injury of David Villa. Already showing his class with a well taken goal against Real Sociedad, David Villa will feel like a new signing in the club this year having been so dearly missed in the important stages of last season.

The Rest of RM - Real Madrid return with the same squad as last season. Modric is set to arrive if they can work out a deal, but for now they are content to see things out with the same squad as last year. Higuain has extended his contract along with some of the other players, and Real Madrid will look to repeat and improve upon what they have done last season, winning the league with 100 points. They have found it a bit difficult to move some players on that are no longer counted on, like Kaka and Sahin, but those players will either find a new home or Mourinho will find a way to use them as the season unfolds. This team was strong last year, and expect the same this year.

If current form is any guide in trying to predict what will happen in this match, expect FC Barcelona to hold a slight edge. However, as we all know, form really plays only a minor role in how things develop when these two teams face each other for a trophy. Expect both teams to play at the top of their potential, and the winner to be crowned by the slimmest of margins. With the tightly packed schedule around these Super Cup matches, expect both managers to use significant rotations in order to avoid early season fatigue while maintaining focus on the all important La Liga match between and just after these two Super Cup fixtures.

Prediction for Leg 1: FCB 3 : 2 RM

Match Thread: http://www.tiki-taka...-v-real-madrid/