On your marks, get set, ‘Hell Clasico’!

by Ifreke Inyang

The La Liga ia barely a week old, but we will be watching another tasty El-Clasico tie between Real Madrid and Barcelona tonight. Every other season, the two Spanish powerhouses, split all the domestic honours between themselves. And this evening, the first leg of the Supercopa will be played at the Camp Nou.

Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho, has started the mind games already. The Portuguese claims that the trophy is the least important of the four trophies, the capital club will be fighting for in the 2012/2013 season.

“If losing the Supercopa is a motivation for winning La Liga I would take that, but I believe it is the least important of the four competitions,” he said. “In my opinion, it has no consequences for the rest of the season – but it is a competition we want to win, and our opponents too. Between rivals, you never want to lose.”

If you an ardent follower of Mourinho and his antics, you know better than to opening the line and stick to latter part – the former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss, never wants to lose, even if it is a kick about on the streets.

On the other hand, Tito Vilanova, knows he has his work cut out. The new Barcelona manager, knows that there is pressure for him for replicate or at least match the achievements of Pep Guardiola, who he replaced in the summer. Guardiola began his trophy-laden reign at the Catalan club, with a victory in the 2009 Copa del Rey and ended it four years later with 13 more trophies.

Vilanova, has already shown glimpses that he knows his stuff. He has come in and instilled his own ideas and methods into the team, tweaking their tactical approach a bit. And they have prepared well for this encounter. Over the weekend, they showed no signs of hangover from Guardiola, dispatching Real Sociedad 5-1.

But a sterner clash awaits tonight, on their own turf.

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has played down the importance of Thursday night’s Spanish Supercopa first leg away at the Camp Nou but said he wanted to win any game against Barcelona.

Mourinho said the Supercopa was the least important of the four trophies Madrid would play for this season – but that did not mean he or his players were not taking the game seriously.

“If losing the Supercopa is a motivation for winning La Liga I would take that, but I believe it is the least important of the four competitions,” he said.

“In my opinion, it has no consequences for the rest of the season – but it is a competition we want to win, and our opponents too. Between rivals, you never want to lose.”

Madrid emerged with a 2-1 victory on their last visit to the Camp Nou, a result that all but clinched last season’s La Liga title, having drawn 2-2 there in last season’s Copa del Rey and 1-1 in the previous year’s Champions League semi-final, and Mourinho said it was clear his team’s results in Barcelona were improving.

“Last year’s result came as a consequence of many similar games,” he said. “The last times we have gone to Barcelona we played well and the results were close. Sometimes we drew 1-1, sometimes 2-2. To win the last game was almost normal, but nobody can say what will happen (this time).”

Mourinho did not mention the 3-2 loss in last season’s Supercopa second leg at the Camp Nou, a game remembered for his poke in the eye of the then Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova, but said he had noticed little difference in this season’s Barca side, with Vilanova now installed as Pep Guardiola’s successor.

“For me it is just Barcelona, not Guardiola’s team or Vilanova’s team,” Mourinho said. “They have practically the same players as last season. Their style can change with small details, but for me it is the same Barcelona – a team with quality, with great players. I do not believe it is a different team than before.”

There was confirmation at the press conference, held at Madrid’s Valdebebas training facility, that Raul Albiol would start at centre-back in place of Pepe, who is still recovering after clashing heads with team-mate Iker Casillas during Sunday’s 1-1 La Liga draw with Valencia.

“Pepe wanted to play, but the coaching team and medical staff consider it would not be logical to risk him in a game like this,” Mourinho said. “He will play the next La Liga game (at Getafe on Sunday) without any problems. A few days rest will do him good.”

Other changes to Madrid’s line-up from the Valencia game could see Sami Khedira replace Lass Diarra in midfield and Karim Benzema possibly come in for Gonzalo Higuain at centre-forward.

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