The European football season has already kick-started with the Premier League flagging off on Saturday, while the rest of the top leagues follow suit through the month. The Spanish La Liga begins on August 19, while the German Bundesliga kicks off a week after that. However, both the Spanish and German football followers will be treated to the traditional curtain-raiser for their respective seasons with the Supercups, played between the league winners and Cup champions from the previous seasons, this Sunday.
Supercopa de España: Barcelona's to lose
Barcelona and Sevilla will battle out a third final in the span of one year when the two clubs meet for the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday. Barcelona, who won the league and Cup double last season, play Sevilla, the Copa del Rey runners up. Sevilla have enjoyed much Cup success under former manager Unai Emery, who now is the Paris Saint-Germain head coach, winning the UEFA Europa League for three years in succession (2014, 2015 and 2016). Meanwhile, Luis Enrique and Barcelona start another campaign with their sights set on nothing but a bare minimum of three trophies to be considered and above-average year for the Catalans.
This fixture is a rematch of the Copa del Rey final from earlier this summer – a match that Barcelona won 2-0. Sevilla failed to secure anything in a game where they were a man up, owning to a Barcelona red card. Sevilla come into this game on the back of another Cup defeat, this time against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. Jorge Sampaoli’s men led 2-1, till Madrid equalised in the 93rd minute, before securing an extra time victory thanks to a solo effort coming from right-back Dani Carvajal’s bolstering run and finish.
Not only did Sevilla lose their head coach Emery last season, but also a few key players. Grzegorz Krychowiak followed his new boss to Paris, and French striker Kevin Gameiro opted for a €32 million move to Atletico Madrid. Striker Ciro Immobile and Fernando Llorente were offloaded to Lazio and Swansea respectively. With the Argentine centre midfielder Ever Banega also leaving on a free to Internazionale, new coach Sampaoli has a fair bit of restructuring work to do.
One-time Brazil hopeful Ganso has joined from Sao Paulo for €9.5 milllion, along with attacking midfielders Joaquin Correa, Hiroshi Kiyotake, and strikers Franco Vazquez, Wissam Ben Yedder, and Luciano Vietto. Barcelona, who wasted no time in identifying the players they required this season, have muscled their roster up with the addition of two French players: centre-back Samuel Umtiti (€25 million from Olympic Lyon), and left-back Lucas Digne (€16.5 million from Roma), and have shelled out €35 million for the Portuguese attacking midfielder Andre Gomes from Valencia.
Sevilla have always punched above their weight in the tournament they've been a part of. In the league, they have not been able to penetrate though either Madrid club or Barcelona, but in the tournaments they've taken part in, their commitment to securing a result has been a key factor in their three successive Europa League triumphs. As usual, Barcelona will settle for nothing less than a minimum three-trophy season. Winning Sunday's clash will effectively set their season on track with a positive start. For Barca, winning two trophies a year isn't enough. They’re in it to win everything, and this attitude and discipline will surely help them overcome Sevilla over the two Spanish Super Cup legs.
DFL-Supercup: Too close to call
Borussia Dortmund will host Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup, continuing one of German club football’s greatest modern rivalries. Contested between the winner of the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal champion, the DFL-Supercup, as it is formally known, has produced a goal bonanza, with 49 in the last 15 matches. That’s an average of just over three (3.3) goals a game.
Over the last few seasons, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have emerged as two of the strongest German clubs. Munich, a powerhouse of resources and talent, currently have a team consisting of German internationals and expensive foreign talent. Dortmund, on the other hand, have been viewed as a selling club, who let their key players leave each season. However, Thomas Tuchel has worked extensively to rebuild his squad this year, signing no less than eight players. Munich have appeared in the DFL Supercup since 2012. They lost three consecutive finals (2012-'15), out of which two were against Dortmund. In 2012, the last time Munich won, they defeated Dortmund. The two clubs hold nine Supercups between them, with Dortmund edging Munich 5-4 in the head-to-head battle.
Bayern Munich have a new head coach this year, ushering in a new era of football. Pep Guardiola, who will always be remembered as the spectacular coach who failed to win the Champions League with the Bavarian giants, was replaced with the Italian Carlo Ancelotti, who will always be remembered as the coach who got sacked by Real Madrid a season after guiding them to their 10th European Cup.
Munich have not shied away from continuing to pay large sums of money for the talent they need. This season, the Bavarian giants have continued the transfer relationship between themselves and their biggest rivals, with centre-back Mats Hummels moving to Munich from Dortmund for €35 million early on in the window. Along with him, Munich also secured the Portuguese 2016 European Cup winner Renato Sanches. This transfer window has been the opposite for Dortmund and with the departure of Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan, manager Thomas Tuchel has recruited an array of talent, mostly from Europe.
Mario Gotze returned to his old club after a wayward three-year stint with Munich. Gotze, whose rise in world football coincided with Dortmund’s tactical prominence, was bought back, along with fellow German attacking wide player Andre Schurrle from Wolfsburg for €30 million. Emre Mor (18) and Ousmane Dembele (19) join Dortmund this year as two exciting, young European talents. Both of them play wide in a forward front three, giving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the much needed width he prefers. In defence, Tuchel has bought former Barcelona academy graduate Marc Bartra, beefed up the left side with the Portuguese Raphael Guerrero, and also picked up Sebastian Rode from Munich for an option in central midfield.
Dortmund and Munich both represent a distinct shade of German football each. The former, a hard-working club with heaps of young talent, takes on teams in every game with heart and grit, earning them fans from across the world. The latter, a behemoth, is an institution that reigns supreme purely because of the resources and talent available to them at any given point in time.
Dortmund are just about warming up to the Tuchel era, while Munich will now usher in a new one themselves with Ancelotti at the helm. Munich have not won this Cup since 2012 and have lost to Dortmund twice in the last three years. There is no doubt they'll want this trophy more, but given Dortmund’s astute tactical ability, and the individual skill their players possess, it’s tough to determine a winner between the two best German football clubs at the moment.