Sunday kicks off the first leg of the 2011 Spanish Super Cup featuring two of the greatest teams in the world, Real Madrid against Barcelona. Remarkably, this is the first time that Real Madrid and Barcelona have faced each other in the Spanish Super Cup since 1997 when Los Blancos won both La Liga and the Supercopa Espana. The tournament began in 1982.
Barcelona, the reigning Spanish Super Cup champions, are the favorites to win this year’s final between the league champions and Copa del Rey winners. Having said that, Real Madrid will be a formidable force especially if they can grab a much-needed advantage in the first leg match which will be played at Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday at 4pm ET.
The return leg on Wednesday at 5pm ET will be played at Camp Nou in Barcelona to decide who will be el campeon.
The importance of this year’s Spanish Super Cup cannot be understated. Both teams have added important signings over the summer. Barcelona have signed Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez (Udinese), while Real Madrid added Fabio Coentrao (from Benfica), Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund), Hamit Altintop (Bayern Munich), Jose Callejon (Espanyol) and Raphael Varane (Lens).
But in the past week, the biggest transfer news is Barcelona’s pursuit of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal. A deal was close to being agreed on Friday, but reportedly Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola advised that the transfer be completed this Monday instead so that the player’s focus and media attention would be on Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup game instead of on Fabregas. If Fabregas does sign on Monday, there’s a chance the Arsenal midfield maestro may play a part in Wednesday’s second leg. However his lack of match fitness and a recent injury may scupper plans.
While Real Madrid and Barcelona won’t name their starting line-ups for Sunday’s game until before kick-off, here is the latest team news:
Carles Puyol is expected to miss the first leg due to a knee injury. Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are questionable — all three of them are recovering from injuries. Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, is expected to make his debut for Barcelona at the Bernabeu.
The only question mark about Real Madrid is whether Fabio Coentrao or Angel Di Maria will start.
In the run-up to Sunday’s massive game, to be shown live on ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com and GolTV, who do you think will win? Vote in the poll below.