The Spanish top flight often comes down to its two most talented and resourceful sides – Real Madrid and Barcelona. Last season was no exception, with Los Blancos capturing La Liga on the final matchday.
Manager Zinedine Zidane and Madrid added the UEFA Champions League to their trophy haul also, while Luis Enrique won the Copa del Rey with the Blaugrana in his final game at the helm. Fans of each club will be offered a glimpse of what to expect this weekend, as the Spanish Super Cup gets underway.
While some things have stayed the same between the El Clasico rivals, there are also massive changes that took place this summer that will affect both teams.
Real became the first club in the Champions League era to win consecutive European titles, and will look for a third in 2017-18. But they almost lost one of their keys to success before the pre-season even began.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s tax fraud situation in Spain left him angry and jaded, with talks of leaving the country being reported. Despite what seemed like an impossible situation, there is now every reason to believe that Portuguese superstar will continue to dazzle in the capital.
Real Madrid boast extreme talent with the likes of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, while Sergio Ramos and Marcelo continue to impress on the defensive side of the ball. If fitness levels remain high and good form is sustained, Los Blancos could certainly re-write history again in the coming year.
But what makes this term truly unique is the world-record transfer out of Catalonia.
Barcelona earned another Copa del Rey, and pushed their rivals to the final round of matches in league play. The attack was in scintillating form, as the “MSN” trident scored 111 goals across all competitions.
But now everything is different, with Neymar moving from the Camp Nou to Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez will have even more pressure on them, as new manager Ernesto Valverde awaits reinforcements from the club’s hierarchy.
There are several options for Barcelona, and also a large amount of money at their disposal. Philippe Coutinho has been a rumoured target, but it will not be easy to replace a player of Neymar’s quality.
Issues were present in the midfield as well, as Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets struggled with inconsistency last season. In order to mount a greater challenge on Real Madrid in La Liga, Valverde’s side will need to be complete and not rely solely on their attacking stars.
As it has so many times before, the first division will come down to these two popular sides. Competition will come from Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, but the giants will separate themselves.
Incredible teams, fantastic supporters and the two best footballers on the planet make up just part of what is the sport’s greatest rivalry.
But the loss of Neymar will be too much for Barcelona this season, and they will need time to acclimate to their new line-up without the Brazilian. Whoever is brought on to replace him will feel the weight of great expectation, and may not be able to replicate Neymar’s form and effect on the pitch.
A third consecutive Champions League trophy may be unlikely, but expect to see Real Madrid crowned La Liga champions for the 34th time in club history.