Season's first El Clasico | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 13, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 13, 2017

Season's first El Clasico

Real travel to Nou Camp today

Barcelona host rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday badly in need of a morale-boosting win following the world record sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite banking 222 million euros for the Brazilian, Barca's approach to finding a replacement has been unsuccessful with bids for Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele of Borussia Dortmund rebuffed.

New Barca coach Ernesto Valverde must therefore try to down the European and Spanish champions with a weaker squad than the one which missed out to Real for the La Liga title last season.

However, Barca did manage to beat Madrid without the then suspended Neymar the last time the sides met in competitive action back in April as Lionel Messi won an incredible encounter 3-2 with the last kick of the game.

The Catalans also edged last month's Miami friendly between the two in Neymar's last game for Barca 3-2.

"We've had a good pre-season and we are coming into the game in good condition," said Valverde. "But on Sunday the real thing starts, with a competitive game and a title at stake against our biggest rivals."

Despite failing to win any of their pre-season games, Madrid started the new campaign as they ended last season with another trophy as Zinedine Zidane's men proved too strong for Manchester United to win the UEFA Super Cup 2-1 on Tuesday.

Should Zidane wish to maintain the 4-4-2 system he has utilised to huge success in 2017, Mateo Kovacic is the favourite to replace his Croatian teammate in midfield.

However, Modric's absence increases Cristiano Ronaldo's chances of returning to the Madrid starting XI after making just a brief cameo appearance as a substitute against his former club in Macedonia. 

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