Lionel Messi is set to return for Barcelona as the Catalans look to secure the first piece of silverware under Gerardo Martino. Barcelona are tied at 1-1 with Atletico Madrid heading into the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Camp Nou on Wednesday. Messi was taken off at half time in the first leg with a thigh injury and missed the 1-0 win at Malaga at the weekend. But the inspirational Argentinian has been included in the squad for the return leg, having returned to full training.
Much of the focus in recent days has been on the man brought into provide support for Messi. Neymar has come off the bench in each of Barcelona’s three competitive matches this season, including in the first leg against Atletico when he headed home his side’s equalizer. With such a large fee paid, many questions have been asked about when the Brazilian will become a starter. Martino, though, has explained that he is seeking to protect Neymar for the long term.
“I have the obligation to take care of my players,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website. “And when it comes to Neymar, who is young, even more so. My aspiration is for him to be a Barca player for 10 to 12 years, not for him to fix my problems in one match. I just want things to go well for him and the way we’re doing things is correct. We, the managers, do what we think is best [for the players]. “
Like Barcelona, Atletico have won both their opening matches in La Liga. On Sunday, Diego Simeone’s side showed that, despite the loss of Radamel Falcao, they still have the ability to score goals, as they thumped Rayo Vallecano 5-0. But Simeone has left little doubt that, especially against Barcelona, his side will look to soak up pressure before striking on the break.
“There are many possibilities,” he said, according to Atletico Madrid’s official website. “Some choose to play more advanced. We choose to play a way that suits the characteristics of the team, we try to win. They are better than us and have more chances of scoring. We have to prepare for that because they are better. The game lasts 90 minutes and we will look for how we can hurt them.”
D: Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba
M: Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Sanchez, Messi, Neymar
Atletico Madrid (probable)
D: Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, F. Luis
M: Suarez, Gabi
D. Costa, Koke, A. Turan
Prediction: Atletico gave Barcelona real problems in the first leg by pressing their opponents ferociously and displaying plenty of threat on the break. Diego Costa was also a real handful for Barcelona, as he started in an unfamiliar right-sided position. It will be intriguing to see how Simeone approaches it this time.
In the opening match, though, Atletico’s intensity subsided in the final third of the game and, on the big Camp Nou pitch, the same could happen even earlier this time. It should be another highly competitive duel, but Barcelona are likely to just prevail.
Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid
Where to watch: The Supercopa de Espana second leg will kick-off at 5 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN Deportes, with a live stream available on ESPN3.