On the eve of the Spanish football season the mouth-watering clash between Fc Barcelona and Seville in Monaco tonight should provide an interesting contrast between two competing styles of football. Furthermore, Seville’s counter-attacking play may provide a blueprint for the rest of La Liga as they seek to find a way to cancel out Barcelona’s dominance in possession.
Tonight’s European Supercup is contested by the winners of the Champions league and the winners of the Uefa cup and pits two Spanish clubs together for the first time in the trophy’s history.
For Barcelona it represents the chance to collect their second competitive trophy in the space of a week , another cup word with the word ‘super’ in the title as well as a step towards satisfying the Catalan media’s clamour for seven trophies this season.
For Seville it represents the most direct route to some silverware this season and will be a glorious way to cap off a fantastic year for the club.
However, in order for Seville to be successful, Javi Navarro has warned “We’re going to have to suffer if we want to win it”
Seville have a reputation for making life difficult for Barcelona but they are aware that they face a side that is in excellent form at the moment. Barcelona have been unbeaten in pre-season and in their last three matches have given a demonstration of the Champion’s brand of fantasy football played at its very best. Rijkaard’s side have scored 8 goals in their last three games whilst their opponents, Espanyol and Bayern Munich, were unable to manage a single goal against the Catalan giants.
On the subject of giants, tonight’s game has been described by Seville President, Jose Maria del Nido as “a battle between David and Goliath”. The phrase has been picked up by much of the Spanish media but, as Del Nido is aware, it is a genuine exaggeration.
Seville are a decent side. They finished 5th , after finishing the season strongly, beating both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and just missed out on a Champions league place to Osasuna on the last day. The club has finished in the top six of La Liga three years in a row and in spite of losing Javier Saviola; they will prove to be very tough opposition for Barcelona tonight.
Seville have been active in the transfer window, signing Saviola’s former Monaco team mate Chevanton as a replacement for the Argentine who has ended his loan spell and returned, ironically, to Barcelona. Seville are weak upfront and Chevanton is untested in La Liga whilst only managing to score ten goals in France last season.
The secret to Seville’s success lies in their defensive capabilities. The club has added more steel to the midfield to compliment Vincenzo Maresca by signing Christian Poulsen from Schalke 04. Seville has one of the most solid defences in La Liga and the addition of Andreas Hinkel from Stuttgart should make them even stronger. Daniel Alves is outstanding at right back and Seville should take great confidence in having retained his services this summer in spite of growing interest from some of Europe’s biggest names.
Juande will be demanding his players put in a strong and disciplined defensive performance this evening and will be looking to Navas and Adriano out wide to catch Barcelona on the counter attack. They should retain a strong centre in order to restrict the passing of Xavi and Deco and cut the supply lines to Barcelona’s lethal three pronged attack. Espanyol showed for a very brief 45 minutes on Friday that Barcelona can be stopped if a solid and aggressive midfield can deny service to Eto’o, Ronaldinho and Messi.
Frank Rijkaard has said “I’ve fixed in my mind how hard they made it for us at the Camp nou last season, and I believe that Seville are an even better side this season”.
It must be said that Barcelona are a better side as well. The addition of Zambrotta will offer greater dependability at right back than either Oleguer or Belletti and the Italian should start this evening.
Barcelona will be taking tonight’s game in Monaco very seriously and will field their strongest starting eleven. The club last won the European Supercup in 1998 and the current side are seeking to emulate Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ who also lifted the trophy. The pressure on this current Barcelona from the Catalan press to win six trophies this season has been unnecessarily added to by a euphoric Joan Laporta who upon inauguration boasted that the club could win seven trophies this year if you count the ‘copa de Catalunya’.
It is hard to know which is more distressing, the sight of the Barcelona President’s temporary predecessor’s taste in fluorescent jackets or Laporta in his underpants at an airport security check. However, the returning President has committed a greater error in placing such expectations upon his team which will mean that anything less than seven trophies could be considered a failure. As sections of the Spanish media have already pointed out, if your target is to win seven trophies but you only manage to win one, then even winning the league title for the third time in a row could be considered a let down.