The Super Cup party rolls into Tbilisi, (where else?) as Barcelona and Sevilla do battle for a trophy ever so slightly more revered than the Community Shield. Unlike the Premier League curtain-raiser this game almost guarantees quality with the likes of Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Ciro Immobile all on show. No matter what happens, a sixth Spanish team in seven years will get their hands on the trophy.
If serial Europa League winners Sevilla are to win this tie they will have to triumph in the key battles when they take to the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena against the Catalan side.
Lionel Messi v Lionel Messi’s Record Against Sevilla
La Pulga doesn’t really have a preference for who he plays against, basically, if you’re facing him, he’s going to score. He does, however, seem to love firing goals past helpless goalkeepers from Seville.
The Argentine has scored 22 times against his opponents here, the only Spanish side to suffer more at the hands of Barca’s talisman is Atletico Madrid. The 28-year-old has registered in each of his last five outings against Los Rojiblancos, notching eight times in that period and finding the net five times last season alone.
If Messi matches those figures here then he will have Unai Emery pulling out his perfectly coiffured locks.
Lionel Messi to score first 3.60
Jeremy Mathieu v Yehven Konoplyanka
Now, if the underdogs are hoping to get any joy, then targeting Jeremy Mathieu is definitely the way to go. The former Valencia defender had a steady first season at the Camp Nou but he didn’t spend much of that time acting as a left-back, which is what he is set to do here.
Pace is not the French international’s greatest asset and in Yehven Konoplyanka he faces a tricky winger who seems to be the only man to have turned down the opportunity to join Mark Hughes’ tiki-taka revolution at Stoke. The Ukrainian has 45 international caps and the ability to exploit his opponent’s lack of experience as a left-sided full-back.
Luis Suarez v Adil Rami
Keeping tabs on Luis Suarez is quite possibly the hardest task you can be set as you build-up to the new campaign, but it is a contest that Adil Rami will relish. Speaking of condiments, the no nonsense Frenchman, who arrived from Milan this summer, has been struggling with a bug picked up from a team barbeque and could be left feeling even worse after a battle with the Uruguayan.
Suarez scored nine goals in cup competitions last term but he has yet to taste success against Spain’s oldest club.
Luis Suarez to score anytime 1.92
Pedro v His Desire To Stay At Barca
The La Masia graduate has seemingly been moving to Old Trafford for the last month but as it is he still remains at his boyhood club. As luck would have it, the Spanish international is set to start against Sevilla, with Neymar missing the tie through injury.
Will he put in an excellent performance to show he really wants to stay and fight for his place? Or will a star showing mean he’s just playing for a move? Maybe he will look disinterested because he longs for a move to Manchester, or a below par performance will be down to him feeling let down by Barca. Either way, everyone will be no more the wiser about this whole Pedro saga after this game than they were before it.
Ciro Immobile v Gerard Pique
A move to Dortmund looked tailor-made for Ciro Immobile but the burden of replacing Robert Lewandowski proved far too much for the Italian as he scored just three times in 24 league outings. He has the chance to resurrect his goalscoring touch with Sevilla but doing so here against a rejuvenated Gerard Pique may prove tough.
Mr Shakira has been grabbing headlines for kicking a ball at his aforementioned wife this week but last term he bounced back from a disappointing campaign as he played an integral part in Blaugrana taking the La Liga title once again. A solid performance from the centre back will go a long way to seeing him add to his bulging net collection.
Barcelona to keep a clean sheet 2.12