La Liga titans Barcelona face main rival Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
Barcelona, which also won the Champions League title, might be going into the match as the slight underdog. Jose Mourinho appears to have made more of an effort for his squad to be match fit for this important encounter.
Pep Guardiola will have his whole squad available for the match, but there are doubts about whether Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, and Sergio Busquets would be available due to injury. Defender Carles Puyol remains sidelined with a knee injury.
Meanwhile, key players like Lionel Messi may not be able play the full 90 minutes.
A player Guardiola could use is Cesc Fabregas. Though he wouldn't be match fit, the current Arsenal midfielder is expected to be the newest addition to the club in a deal that might be completed this weekend.
Barcelona is already the envy of the beautiful game, and now they should have three superstar midfielders with Fabregas in the mix with Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Barcelona added Alexis Sanchez this off-season, and he will likely see some playing time for the Catalans on Sunday. The Chilean forward joins Barcelona with the departure of Bojan Krkic. Sanchez is viewed as an exciting player, though somewhat untested against elite competition.
In their preseason matches, Barcelona didn't quite look like the nearly unstoppable team that they were last season. Guardiola has already acknowledged that the Catalans need a lot of work going into the season.
"We're playing a final and there can't be any possible excuses. If I'd wanted them to be fitter then I'd have called them back earlier. The rest was important," he said.
Real Madrid goes into the match without adding superstar player this summer, but rather some key players that should bolster the depth. Mourinho will expect big things from wing Fabio Coentrao, forward Jose Callejon, defender Raphael Varane, and midfielders Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop.
While Barcelona has uncertainty with some key players questionable for the match and fitness being an issue, Real Madrid enters the match in much better shape.
"We've had 26 training sessions and seven friendlies," said Mourinho. "The 26 training sessions and the seven friendly matches were for one hour and a half each. We've planned for the season in the best way possible. We haven't just prepared for the Supercopa but also for the whole season."
Meanwhile, the same faces are there: Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Marcelo, Angel di Maria, Kaka, Sergio Ramos, and Gonzalo Higuain, among others. This season, Real Madrid goes in with less questions, and with an interest to take the La Liga crown away from Barcelona.
This match probably means more to Mourinho than Pep Guardiola. Real Madrid obviously want to get the season off on the right foot, and they've had a lot of time to learn Mourinho system in his second year with the club. It will be interesting to see if Barcelona start the season against their arch rival with the same effectiveness they've had against top opponents last season.
Recent history points to a Barcelona victory. Guardiola has yet to lose a match at Santiago Bernabeu since taking charge of Barcelona in 2008. Real Madrid only beat Barcelona once last season in five meetings, which was the 1-0 overtime victory in the Copa del Rey final.