Preview: In a country where two teams' dominance has increased to almost perverse proportions in recent years, Real Madrid's start to the season has already set alarm bells ringing in some quarters. There may have only been two games played in La Liga, put in taking just a solitary point, Real already find themselves five points behind their great rivals. It is a noteworthy sum given the astonishingly low number of points the two sides have dropped in the last couple of seasons.
Having suffered a shock defeat to Getafe at the weekend, the return leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday has ascended in importance beyond simply the opportunity to put more silverware in the cabinet while simultaneously getting a psychological boost over their greatest rivals.
"For me, winning the Super Cup or beating Barcelona is not important," claimed Real boss Jose Mourinho, according to the Real Madrid website. "For me, the important thing is knowing if the attitude we had against Getafe was fleeting or if it is a situation resulting from a certain psychological profile that some players, and in this case the team has created. This is the fundamental point for me."
Despite their disappointing start to the season, Real have reason to be optimistic heading into the second leg at the Bernabeu. Victor Valdes' late error at Camp Nou last week which allowed Angel Di Maria to score from close range means that the tie is very much in the balance at 3-2.
The home side had threatened to run away with the match and the tie in the second half following Cristiano Ronaldo's opener. Andres Iniesta was in imperious form as he flourished back in a midfield role, with license to roam form deeper on the field. If Real are going to overturn the one-goal deficit at the Bernabeu then their midfield is going to have to keep much tighter tabs on silky World Cup winning hero.
Real's midfield is unlikely to feature the play-making talents of Luka Modric. The Croatian finally completed his move form Tottenham this week, but given his exile from the first team at White Hart Lane is unlikely to have the requisite fitness to begin the contest. An appearance off the bench may be in the offing, however. Real could be boosted, though, by the return to the backline of tenacious central defender Pepe.
For Barcelona, coach Tito Vilanova has indicated that he won't take any risks with Carlos Puyol. The defender has a fractured cheekbone and could potentially play with a face mask.
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo
M: Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
D: Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Sanchez, Messi, Pedro
Prediction: Barcelona head into the return leg doubtless feeling that they could have all-but wrapped up the tie after a sparkling second-half at Camp Nou. Real should be stronger at the back, though, with the return of Pepe, who is always fired up, sometimes overly so, when going up against Barcelona.
The tie could go down to the wire, but Barcelona should do enough to get the draw they need to take home the season's first silverware.
Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona