Is there a team in world football who could beat this Real Madrid side? Zinedine Zidane expanded on his incredible record as a manager on Wednesday night as he won his second trophy of the 2017/18 season, before the Spanish league has even begun.
The suspended Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t needed, nor even worthy of mention in the end, as Real Madrid saw off their arch rivals easily, doing so without several key players in a match which will leave Ernesto Valverde along with the Barcelona board, players and fans, worried about what they can realistically hope to achieve this season.
Real Madrid are an absolute monster under Zidane and rested Gareth Bale, Casemiro and Isco for this second leg - the latter was the best player on the pitch at the Nou Camp - and Barcelona had no answer to their quick passing, high tempo pressing and slick movement.
Their dreadful start certainly didn't help. Real Madrid began the first half pressing high and hard, showing a desire and energy to win the ball - and keep it - that Barcelona just couldn’t match. Samuel Umtiti was forced back towards his own goal from kick-off and any attempts to play out from the back were closed down quickly and with purpose.
Valverde’s decision to abandon the usual Barcelona 4-3-3 was an attempt to deal with the giant Neymar shaped hole that has been left on the left wing but his decision to start with a 5-3-2 was surprising. A confused, nervous display in the first half may have revealed how little time they have spent working on the system during a packed pre-season. It soon unraveled.
And if you replace the word ‘soon’ with ‘immediately’, you might get a better feel for just how woefully unprepared Barcelona looked for this. Real, by contrast, were buzzing from the first whistle.
Marco Asensio, Zidane’s bright new wonderkid, started in midfield in Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 - a departure from the usual 4-4-2 diamond that has yielded such success in recent games, including the 3-1 win in the first leg - and controlled the first 45 minutes.
With four minutes on the clock, the electric Asensio found himself in space 25 yards out from goal and launched an unstoppable bending, swerving, dipping shot over Marc-Andre ter Stegen. It crashed into the goal, leaving the net and the Barcelona defence visibly shaken.
Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi was probably the only of Valverde’s 11 men who looked in any way assured in possession or capable of genuinely threatening the Real back four, and he took it upon himself to help the team carve out opportunities, by doing it all on his own.
Some bursting runs from deep nearly unlocked the Real Madrid defence on a couple of occasions but often he found himself without support. Luis Suarez - another who also caused a bit of trouble in the final third - managed to pull the ball across the box in another dangerous situation but he too found that every time Barcelona got into the final third, they either had no support or Real had dropped into a deep defensive shape quicker than they could attack.
Messi grew visibly frustrated as the half went on and Real Madrid went into samba football mode, pinging passes about with the assured confidence of a team who, having already lifted one trophy this season with an impressive win over Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup, look unbeatable on current form. Luka Modric danced around the pitch, Karim Benzema turned up in space left vacant by confused defenders and in the 38th minute eventually this pressure told.
Barcelona failed to pass out from the back (as if they’d even consider clearing their lines), Busquets was caught in possession and Benzema stole in behind Umtiti to control Marcelo’s low cross, and from the resulting flick, swiveled and powered a low shot past ter Stegen. Barcelona’s defenders stood staring like statues. Game over.
There was little change in the second half with Real sitting a little deeper and allowing their visitors more of the ball. There was a brief spark as Messi sprinted onto a cushioned pass from Suarez, dribbled into the box and found himself one-on-one with Keylor Navas but even he couldn’t finish the chance, striking the ball high and onto the crossbar.
Later, a hopeful Sergi Roberto shot was palmed away by Navas. Suarez had space, dived in at the back post to head into an open goal... and hit the outside of the post. As if it wasn’t already obvious, the sound of the ball striking the woodwork was confirmation that his was not Barca’s night
Zidane has worked wonders at Real Madrid and though football has always been cyclical and great teams peak and decline, it’s important to remember that a season is a long time and Barcelona still have some of the best players in the world on their roster. There is a growing suspicion that Barcelona - might be - at the end of their glorious, all-conquering era.
Real Madrid played this game with the hunger, energy and desire of a great side. They’ve won two Champions League tournaments in a row, two trophies this season already and will be huge favourites to lift yet another La Liga title. On this form, Barca could struggle to finish second. Hard work on the training ground and some transfer market magic is desperately needed.
At the final whistle, Valverde cut a defeated look. His gameplan had unravelled in the opening minutes and his substitutions struggled to make any impact at all. The irreplaceable Andres Iniesta was missing through injury, there was no shape or balance to the players on the pitch and even the great Messi struggled to truly influence either leg of this Super Cup tie.
Barcelona are - for the moment - a team without identity. Real Madrid’s is clear: they play beautiful football - and they win.
That's it! Real Madrid win the Super Cup. A deserved victory for Zidane's team who were better in every single department.
90 mins +2
PSG are on the windup...
— PSG English (@PSG_English) August 16, 2017
90 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Barcelona still no closer to finding this goal. What a performance this has been from Real Madrid.
87 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Marcelo is enjoying himself on the left wing now with nobody close to him. The channel is free for him to run into, Theo Hernandez overlaps, skips past a challenge and puts too much on his cross. Throw-in.
84 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Suarez stares at the sky in frustration as Barca lose control of the ball again. He's also clutching the back of his knee a bit after that clash with Navas earlier.
81 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Barcelona just do not like it when they get hassled on the ball. They're do disorganised too and although Deulofeu is doing all he can to open something up in these final 10 minutes, Valverde's defeated look on the sidelines says a lot.
78 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Rakitic gets forward but has to turn back.
And Suarez has gone looking for a penalty again. Navas comes out to smother the ball as Marcelo shields it, connects with Suarez and he goes flying. Marcelo and the home crowd aren't buying it this time... even Suarez doesn't milk it.
Lucas Digne is getting ready to come on for Jordi Alba.
75 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Andre Gomes off - he's been a passenger all night - and Deulofeu on. He's involved straight away, linking with Messi and taking up a position on the left wing.
72 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
SUAREZ HITS THE POST! It's just not their night. Roberto hits a superb effort on his left foot from distance, powering it low across goal and forcing Navas into the save. He can only parry it away from goal and Suarez dives in to head the rebound... but hits the outside of the post. So unlucky.
69 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Vasquez evades the attentions of Alba on the right and passes the ball between three players. Sergi Roberto brings the ball out from the back, has no support and is then tackled, Real Madrid pass the ball around. They're just slowing play down now.
66 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Ramos must be bored and has started winding people up and fouling others. Barcelona are getting better in Real Madrid's half. Messi sends a free-kick to the back post and SUAREZ MUST SCORE! Oh lordy lordy he's put it wide. The ball is just slightly too high for him, the goalkeeper misses it and Suarez can only head wide at an open goal.
63 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Kovacic comes off for Casemiro. The crowd give both players a big roar - Kovacic has improved massively under Zidane's management.
Messi isn't having fun tonight. Ramos stops him taking a free-kick quickly and chucks the ball over his head, Messi is caught saying not-nice things towards his general direction.
60 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Real Madrid are still finding space in the channels. Asensio skips away from Mascherano, the ball bounces loose in the box, Semedo and Umtiti scramble it away.
57 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Great move from Real. Benzema takes the ball on his left and from a wide angle, gets a powerful shot on goal. Ter Stegen saves it with one of his weird, trademark reflex saves, flicking out an arm to parry it.
Marcelo has been playing as a number 10 for a lot of this half. He's still - on paper - the left-back.
54 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
MESSSSIIIII! He's hit the crossbar! He only needs one chance and that was it. Suarez cushions the ball to him and Messi drives at goal from 30 yards, gets to the box and tries to hit a shot high into the roof of the net. But it was too high, Clive.
51 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
That's an interesting substitution. Gerard Pique is coming off with what seems to be a slightly muscle injury. Right-back and new signing Nelson Semedo comes on, which should mean a change of shape. Buuuut they're still in a back five. What on earth is going on here.
48 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
This is a bit of a better start from Barca. It's still a two upfront, Real Madrid aren't playing quite as high a line and Barcelona have actually had some of the ball.
We're back! What can Barcelona do about this?
Dreadful from Barcelona - Real Madrid have been utterly brilliant.
What does Valverde do? The plan hasn't worked at all. Does he change back to the usual 4-3-3 and put someone else in the left wing role? Does he have a rocket spare to strap Andre Gomes to and does he know the coordinates of the sun? All the answers and more, soon.
44 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Messi's getting wound up now. Barca have gone back to a back four, with Mascherano the right back. This makes no sense.
This tactical set up has changed three times already and the players don't know who's supposed to be marking who, who's supposed to be wide and central... it's a mess.
Benzema has just taken on three players and still managed to get a shot away from the edge of the box.
41 mins - Real Madrid 2 - 0 Barcelona
Real Madrid have had 58 per cent possession to Barca's 42...
Benzema makes it two! Barcelona have been dreeeeadful.
Real Madrid 2 (Benzema 38') - 0 Barcelona
Real Madrid are embarrassing Valverde's side here. They're fighting for the ball harder, moving better, controlling the ball, pressing, pulling off little flicks and tricks and sexy passes - it's a joy to watch. It's like the old Barcelona....
38 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Oooohhhhhhhh Modric does a little Sombrero on Andre Gomes, flicking the ball over his head. Barca seem to think that playing the ball in behind Ramos and Varane is somehow going to put Suarez clear of the back four. It is not. Varane comfortably out paces him to the latest failed effort.
35 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
And it should be 2-0. Vasquez is left in five yards of space between the centre-backs, takes the ball on his left and bends a shot to the far post. Ter Stegen is beaten but the ball pings back off the post.
Barca try to counter-attack and get into the final third but Real Madrid drop into their defensive shape and there's no room now for Barca to play in. Messi is shoved off the ball.
32 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Great counter-attack again from Real Madrid! They're so dangerous when they can run at the defence! They absorb pressure again and Vasquez is released down the right with a great long pass from Kroos. He does some stepovers in the box and tries to get the ball on his left foot to shoot but Barca scamper back and deal with danger.
And Vasquez is in space again on the right! The cross comes in for Benzema - he goes to head it... and only a high foot from Pique prevents him burying that one. If that had been anywhere else on the pitch, it was a foul. No penalty though.
29 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Barcelona win a corner but it's hit low and ends up with Alba near the halfway line. Real Madrid get everyone behind the ball, Busquets is caught in possession but wins a throw.
26 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Alba chips a pass straight out for a throw as Barcelona struggle to even play their way out of a throw-in situation just inside their own half. Messi is about the only player switched on here. And Barca might be in trouble again! Benzema has space to run into, heel chops back onto his left and then passes to Asensio in space on the left in the box. He takes a touch and shoots but it's blocked for a corner.
And Real nearly score with a header from that! It's not even difficult for Zidane's team here.
23 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Great counter-attack by Real Madrid. Kovacic spins and bursts out from the back, plays it to Asensio who finds Marcelo on the left wing... and his low cross is too early for Benzema to get there. Real Madrid tuck into a 4-5-1 in defence but get men forward so quickly. Umtiti heads another cross from the right away.
20 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Messi is starting to get a hold of this now. He turns up on the left and very nearly steers the ball into the back of the net but has his cross blocked by Ramos. Barcelona have much more of the ball. Andre Gomes still doesn't seem to know where he's supposed to be playing.
17 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Messi gets involved, Rakitic leaves the ball for him to run with and his chipped pass into the box hits Andre Gomes' hand. Free-kick.
Vasquez nutmegs Umtiti by putting the ball through his legs. Alba has moved into a midfield position now, making it a 3-4-3. Gomes moves left to support... and takes up Alba's space. Navas gathers the ball from a cross.
Messi isn't human. He drives from deep, skins one player and bursts past him, lays it off to the right and then runs to receive the return ball, gets into the box and Navas does well to read his movement and smothers low before Messi can take the ball around him.
14 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Suarez is in! There's a slip by the defender and Suarez runs into the box, pulls the ball across goal and looks up to see that nobody else is there. Barcelona finally get control of possession and move up the pitch, a chipped pass puts Suarez in behind but his snap shot volley goes way over the top.
11 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
This is really lovely stuff from Real Madrid. Short passes to build up and then direct ones between the lines to speed things in the final third. Marcelo and Carvajal are pushing right up the pitch - Messi gets his first touch 30 yards from his own goalkeeper.
8 mins - Real Madrid 1 - 0 Barcelona
Real are so full of confidence and pressing with such an intensity that Barcelona cannot even string more than two passes together. Carvajal wins a free-kick right of the Barcelona box, Kroos stands over it.
After a bit of nonsense in the box between Ramos and Umtiti, Barcelona clear it.
Real Madrid 1 (Asensio 4') - 0 Barcelona
Wowzers. Asensio has just absolutely battered the ball over Ter Stegen from 25 yards - it's an absolutely amazing finish, moving like a knuckleball kind of shot and flies over the goalkeeper's head and crashes into the back of the net.
Barcelona are all over the place! What a goal that was!
4 mins - Real Madrid 0 - 0 Barcelona
Andre Gomes heads the ball to nobody at the halfway line. Barcelona are trying to play out from the back but the high press by Real Madrid is forcing mistakes everywhere and the players don't seem to know where to pass. Pique has to chip it long just to avoid being closed down.
3 mins - Real Madrid 0 - 0 Barcelona
Bad start for Umtiti as his first touch puts him in a little bit of trouble, Vasquez pressing high and forcing him towards his own goalkeeper.
Asensio is already in behind the defence down the left, catching Roberto out of position. He cuts the pass back to the edge of the box and Modric shoots on the outside of the boot but it hits the back of a defender. Real have started much better here.
Here we go!
He was rubbish in the last match, to be fair. Barcelona seem to be lining up in a 5-3-2, or 3-5-2 or whatever shape you want. Basically, Messi and Suarez are a strike partnership tonight.
Leo Messi warming up
The teams are actually on the pitch doing the pre-match hand clasps (it's not handshakes anymore) but here's a photograph because everyone likes photographs.
What will Barca do without Neymar?
It's pretty much Catalan law that Barcelona play with a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 and every manager's problem has been getting the best players to fit into the best team. Neymar is one of the world's greatest individuals and was fantastic as part of that MSN forward line.
Valverde has a decision to make now. Does he put Messi on the right of the three? Or does he try to find a way to get another striker next to Suarez and make them wide forwards who cut inside, leaving room for Messi in the number 10 slot?
In the last game, Messi didn't really have a set position and instead wandered around wherever he felt was best. That meant he could get on the ball in deeper midfield positions and pick out teammates with passes buuuuuuuuuut also that he then wasn't far enough forward to influence the game. Now is not the time for Messi to start trying to replace Iniesta - he needs to find his goalscoring best form to help Barcelona with their transition to being scarily good once more.
Dembele would be a superb signing if they can get him, but he's left footed. If he plays on the left, he can't cut inside to drive through the middle, making him more of a winger. Suarez could make use of a winger...
Better for the team would be Coutinho (sorry Liverpool fans). His movement and ability on either foot (although much stronger on his right) makes a perfect candidate to replace Neymar. He could do more of the Iniesta wide forward role on the left and cut inside in attacks and can also drop into the number eight or number six slot in midfield.
The Bernebeu looks nice
First game on the new grass 10 days after installation, tonight we host Barcelona at 11pm in the spanish super cup, should be a good night pic.twitter.com/zk4WfgA6ZI
— Paul Burgess (@paul_pburgess) August 16, 2017
Why is Ronaldo banned?
You might not have seen the first leg, or even know what happened but Ronaldo is BANNED! For five games. His first booking was for taking off his shirt - fair enough - and the second for diving. It was a terrible decision by the referee but Ronaldo's little shove afterwards was not cool bro, and it is that push which means he is now in soccer jail.
Real Madrid starting lineup
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadridfra) August 16, 2017
Zinedine Zidane will almost certainly stick with the 4-4-2 diamond that he loves. Casemiro is out and in comes Kovacic, Benzema starts probably alongside Asensio and Vasquez comes in... actually Vasquez might be part of a three with Benzema and Asensio.
Barcelona starting lineup
���� #FCB XI
1. Ter Stegen
20. S. Roberto
21. André Gomes
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 16, 2017
That's an attacking lineup. It looks like a three man defence of Mascherano, Umtiti and Pique, with Alba at left wing-back and Roberto right wing-back.
Andre Gomes comes into midfield with Ivan Rakitic and Busquets, and that leaves Messi and Suarez up front... unless it's the very Cruyff version of Barcelona, which would be a 3-4-3, and would put Gomes on the left of the front three. Hmmm.
�� #FCBlive Substitutes:
6. Denis Suárez
22. Aleix Vidal
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 16, 2017
Hi everybody! Welcome to our liveblog for tonight's Clasico. Can Barcelona find a way back against their arch rivals? Neymar was the man behind that amazing comeback against PSG but he's not around anymore and Barca didn't look themselves on Sunday in the first leg.
Ronaldo won't be too much of a miss as he was being slowly brought into first team football again after the summer and Gareth Bale has his place at the moment. Barcelona should actually be far more worried about Isco, who has been the best player on the pitch in all of Real Madrid's last few games - certainly the ones I've seen, anyway.
Team news should be in soon, stay with us to find out who's playing.
What is it?
The second leg of the Spanish Super Cup, featuring Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is the first major trophy available in Spain and Real currently hold a 3-1 aggregate lead after goals from Leo Messi, Gerard Pique (an own goal), Marco Asensio and Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the first.
Zinedine Zidane can expand his incredible trophy haul even if his side suffers a 2-0 defeat, while Ernesto Valverde could do with Barca putting in a performance that at least offers promise, let alone entertains and fights back into this.
When is it?
The game is played tonight, Wednesday Aug 16, 2017.
What time is kick-off?
Kick-off is 10pm BST. They like to do things later over in Spain - it's a tad more relaxing there. Warmer too. You should go there if you haven't been.
What TV channel is it on?
Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football will both be broadcasting this one in glorious HD (and standard definition, of course) and you can also watch it on Sky Go. If you don't like in the UK, it is also being shown on a multitude of international television stations, too numerous to mention.
What is the team news?
The big news is that Cristiano Ronaldo will not feature at all because he rather carelessly shoved the referee in the first leg, after he was very unfairly (and incorrectly) awarded a second yellow card for simulation.
Ronaldo had already been booked for taking his shirt off after scoring Real's second goal on a quick counter-attack and despite believing that Luis Suarez's ridiculous feigned foul for Barcelona's penalty was actually a penalty, the referee failed to spot Ronaldo being nudged while at full pace, before he went down in the area. He is now banned for five matches. Controversy!
Isco should start - he was the stand out player in the first leg - and there may be a place for Asensio from kick-off after his impressive cameo in that match.
Neymar won't feature because he doesn't play for Barcelona anymore and that is a big problem for Valverde to fix, especially with Andres Iniesta set to miss out with injury. Gerard Deulofeu may well start in that left forward position but didn't do much to suggest he will be a first choice during the season and Valverde could see fit to try someone else. Denis Suarez, for example.
Paulinho could make his debut after signing from Guangzhou Evergrande for £36million this week.
What are they saying?
Zinedine Zidane is not happy about Ronaldo's dismissal:
"I am annoyed. We are all annoyed and upset," he told reporters this week. "I'm not going to get involved with the referees but after what happened, to think that he'll not play for five games makes you think that something isn't right. It's too long for him.
"I hope that when the (committee) meet, they look at it thoroughly. Everyone can have their opinion but Cristiano Ronaldo is upset because he wants to play and when he doesn't play he's not happy.
"I hope they've not got something against Cristiano Ronaldo and people do their job with integrity. We're upset that we are not going to have him with us for a long time. We'll wait to see what happens."
Ernesto Valverdedoesn't think his team were as bad as they looked in the first leg:
"They scored three goals, but this was a game in which we played well and had chances.
"Reaching their danger zones isn't all that matters as you also need to hit the target. I don't believe that we're lacking goalscoring ability, but they were more clinical.
"They caught us in a one-versus-one situation and then scored one wonder goal and then another to make it 3-1. It was an even game and they had a strong central midfield, which made playing inside difficult.
"Their second goal really hurt us. We congratulate them and we will try to improve for the next match.
"We have a very unfavourable aggregate score and the opponent is the favourite. Now we have to play a second leg and things are never over after one defeat, or after one victory.
"When you lose you want another game to come along quickly to try to put things right. We are a little bit taken aback, but we have time to recover our energy."
What are the odds?
Real Madrid: 13/10
Barcelona to win: 7/4
What's our prediction?
Barcelona will push to get back into this game and have so much talent in their ranks that they won't go home without at least scoring one. Real Madrid have the advantage and this should suit them perfectly - this Barcelona side is vulnerable and lacks balance.
Real Madrid 2 - 1 Barcelona