Barcelona v Real Madrid: Can the Supercopa set the tone for La Liga?
Real Madrid and Barcelona will write the latest chapter in their tempestuous rivalry of guts and glory when they clash in the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana at Camp Nou on Sunday.
For arguably the first time since Barca's sensational treble-winning season in 2008-09, Madrid enter the campaign widely favoured to get the better of their Clasico rivals on the back of La Liga and Champions League glory last time around.
Barcelona are under new leadership with former Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde, who hammered his new employers 5-1 on aggregate in this fixture in 2015, and he will hope to make a similar statement for supporters still reeling from Neymar's world-record departure to PSG.
But how much influence can the Supercopa realistically have over the title race to come? Here, we examine some showdowns that set the tone for the season ahead.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) August 11, 2017
1997 – Real Madrid v Barcelona
Who won the Supercopa? Jupp Heynckes' Madrid conceded a slender 2-1 first-leg advantage at Camp Nou before putting Barca to the sword 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Raul scoring a brace to take his total over the tie to three. It proved a humiliating start to life in Catalonia for Louis van Gaal.
What happened next? Although Van Gaal would never enjoy the popularity of compatriots Johan Cruyff and Ronald Koeman among Cules, the Dutchman whipped Barca into shape and led them to a Liga and Copa del Rey double. Madrid were 11 points back in fourth but ended the campaign with a triumph of their own over Juventus in the Champions League final.
2011 – Barcelona v Real Madrid
Who won the Supercopa? Pep Guardiola's Barcelona continued their imperial period with a 5-4 aggregate victory – Lionel Messi snatching a 3-2 second-leg win on home turf with his second of the match, having also netted in a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.
What happened next? All hell broke loose. In stoppage time, Marcelo was red carded for chopping down Cesc Fabregas and both benches spilled into a melee. Amid the testosterone-fueled jostling, Madrid boss Jose Mourinho played the role of dastardly villain and poked Barca assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye. Only, as far as the Portuguese was concerned, this was no act of petulance. His spokesman Eladio Parames told El Mundo: "Jose will not ask for forgiveness. He firmly believe that he was defending the interest of Real Madrid."
Arguably, there was some method in Mourinho's malevolence. This flash point came after an ill-tempered run of four Clasicos in 18 days in April, where Barca won a Champions League semi-final, all-but wrapped up La Liga and lost the Copa del Rey final. It added to a strain that began to show on Guardiola as his final season in charge of Barca rumbled on, Mourinho's Madrid reeling in his all-conquering side to take the title.
2012 – Real Madrid v Barcelona
Who won the Supercopa? Barcelona, who gave Guardiola a Copa del Rey triumph as a send-off, won 3-2 at Camp Nou but Madrid prevailed 2-1 at the Bernabeu to win on away goals. Cristiano Ronaldo was on target in each leg, while it was all-eyes on the dugouts as Vilanova had stepped up to go head-to-head with Mourinho.
What happened next? Without Guardiola to offer verbal sparring - Vilanova having opted to take the high road with his one-time assailant - Mourinho turned inward and a Madrid dressing room mired in internal conflict ceded La Liga to a Barcelona side that racked up 100 points in the process.
Tragically, Vilanova was diagnosed with parotid gland cancer for a second time in December 2012. He returned to the bench in March 2013 but stepped down at the end of the season. He died in April 2014 after suffering a relapse, aged 45. "Tito Vilanova’s passing is a sad day for football, for Barcelona and most importantly for his family and friends," said Mourinho.
Leo Messi has scored goals in the Spanish Super Cup. Watch them all again here https://t.co/bwtuUArdiI
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 10, 2017
2013 – Barcelona v Atletico Madrid
Who won the Supercopa? Gerardo Martino took charge of Barca and edged Copa del Rey holders Atletico on away goals, Neymar's first goal for the club to claim a 1-1 draw at Vicente Calderon ultimately proving decisive as the return in Catalonia ended goalless.
What happened next? Martino would win no more silverware as Barcelona coach, a failure largely down to a brilliantly dogged Atletico. By the end of the season, including the Supercopa, the Blaugrana had played Atleti six times and failed to win once. Diego Simeone's men knocked them out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage and Diego Godin's final-day goal secured a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou to seal improbable La Liga glory.