Lionel Messi set for another major milestone as Barcelona face Sevilla in Super Cup

Andy West 11/08/2018
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The new Spanish season gets under way on Sunday with a game taking place on foreign shores, as the Super Cup is contested in Morocco between Sevilla and reigning league and cup champions Barcelona.

There is a new look to both teams, with Barca boss Ernesto Valverde able to give debuts to summer signings Clement Lenglet, Arthur, Malcom and Arturo Vidal, while new Sevilla coach Pablo Machin can also call upon the services of several new signings.

Most of Barca’s stars, such as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, have not featured at all in the pre-season preparations after making a late return to training following their World Cup exertions, so Valverde may keep some of his biggest names on the bench.

Here are three of the big talking points ahead of the contest.

ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR MESSI?

TOPSHOT-FBL-WC-2018-MATCH50-FRA-ARG

The game gives Lionel Messi an opportunity to start the season by notching up yet another milestone: the most honours won by any Barcelona player.

Messi is currently tied with Andres Iniesta after claiming 32 titles during his time with the club, but the midfielder’s departure to Japan means that Messi can now move clear into first place outright.

Messi has already won the Spanish Super Cup on seven occasions and is the competition’s all-time leading scorer with 13 goals in his previous 17 appearances, and kicking off the new campaign by racking up trophy number 33 would be exactly the tonic he needs after the deep frustrations he endured during the World Cup.

He has not been in action since hapless Argentina’s exit against eventual winners France six weeks ago, and the newly-appointed Barca skipper will be relieved to return to comfortable surroundings after the chaos of his national team’s set-up this summer.

ELECTRIC ATMOSPHERE FAVOURING BARCA? 

This edition of the Spanish Super Cup is like no other, with the game in Tangier marking the first time the trophy has been held overseas and played as a one-off fixture.

The title is normally decided over two legs, home and away, having been staged in that manner on every previous occasion since it was first permanently introduced to the annual calendar in 1982.

However, this time around Barca’s pre-season tour to the United States and Sevilla’s involvement in the Europa League qualifying rounds meant it was impossible to find two available dates, so the Spanish Football Federation eventually decided to take the game to a neutral venue as a one-off.

Although Sevilla is much closer geographically to Morocco, Barca are expected to enjoy the vast majority of support from the locals, who will be thrilled by the rare opportunity to watch Messi and co in action.

The exotic location of the 45,000 capacity Stade Ibn Batouta is likely to be matched by an electric atmosphere, and the noise and colour of the Moroccan fans could create an occasion to remember.

SEVILLA LAUNCHING INTO BRIGHT NEW ERA?

Sevilla v Ujpest - UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round: 1st leg

New Sevilla boss Pablo Machin, who previously enjoyed great success with Barca’s Catalan neighbours Girona, is looking to launch a new era for the Andalusian club following last season’s frustrating seventh-place finish.

A key new player for Sevilla is Czech international goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik, who has been recruited from Basel to replace Fulham-bound Sergio Rico. Defender Joris Gnagnon has been snapped up for €15m from Rennes, with midfielder Ibrahim Amadou arriving for a similar sum from Lille.

Winger Aleix Vidal will be hoping to face his former club after being signed from Barcelona during the summer, and Sunday’s game provides an early opportunity to see how Machin plans to reshape his new team.

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Hello, one and all – David Cooper here.

The Premier League transfer window may be over but there’s still three weeks left of excitement/irritation/hopelessness across Europe.

Barcelona have apparently done most of their transfer business, but as the La Liga campaign draws closer, things are getting busier at the Nou Camp. Follow all the latest updates below.

7:00pm – Barcelona aiming to add another trophy to collection

Barcelona will look to add yet another domestic trophy to their collection when they take on Sevilla in the Spanish Supercopa on Sunday.

In a break with tradition, the clash will be a one-off match played at the Stade Ibn Batoutain in Tangier, Morocco.

Sevilla must hope a change of country can help them upset the odds after a chastening 5-0 defeat by Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey in April. With Barca having won both the league and the cup, Sevilla provide the opposition once again.

2:30pm – Rakitic linked with Bayern move

Competition for places is high in the Barcelona midfield.

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic is the subject of interest from Bayern Munich, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Read more, here.

1:30pm – PSG chase Dembele

On the move? Ousmane Dembele.

On the move? Ousmane Dembele.

Paris Saint-Germain have set their sights on securing the signature of Barcelona star Ousmane Dembele this summer, Mundo Deportivo reports.

Read more, here.

12:30pm – Malcom is living his dream

New signing: Malcom.

New signing: Malcom.

Barca’s new signing has revealed that the Catalan giants have always been his team of choice on the playstation as he grew up dreaming of playing for the Camp Nou club.

Read more, here.

11:36am – Pogba move to Camp Nou never on the cards

Jose Mourinho handed Paul Pogba the captain's armband.

Jose Mourinho handed Paul Pogba the captain’s armband for Leicester clash.

Barcelona did not make an offer for Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, the World Cup winner’s agent has confirmed.

Read more, here.

10:30am – Barca prepare for Sevilla clash

Barcelona and Sevilla will contest the Spanish Super Cup season curtain-raiser on Sunday night… but the one-off encounter (it has traditionally been two-legs) takes place in Tangier, Morocco (12am Monday, August 13 UAE time).

Barcelona's new player Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal smiles during his official presentation at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 6, 2018. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Arturo Vidal feature for Blaugrana?

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Rakitic has quietly been one of Barcelona's best performers this season.

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic is the subject of interest from Bayern Munich, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The Croatian World Cup star is a lynchpin of the Blaugrana engine room but given the arrivals of Arturo Vidal and Arthur, competition for places has heated up.

Although the Spanish giants have yet to drop a hint that they would even consider allowing the 30-year-old to leave Camp Nou, the Bavarians could launch an offer this month.

Both Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco are also believed to be chasing Rakitic’s signature.

The player in question has a long-term contract at the club, running until 2021.

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