Mon - Fri
8am - 6pm GMT
It’s coming time to resume one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.
La Liga has released its scheduled for the 2012-13 season and FC Barcelona will resume their rivalry with Real Madrid on August 19 as part of the Supercopa de Espana, which pits the winners of the Liga and the Copa del Rey titles against each other at Camp Nou, with the return leg coming on August 30 at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
The changing faces of each teams add whole new dimensions to a rivalry that only seems to intensify every year.
Most significant is a change on the Barcelona sidelines. After an incredible four years that saw him win two Champions League titles, three league titles and many more trophies, Pep Guardiola is taking a one-year sabbatical from football with no lack of offers awaiting him upon his return.
Replacing him is Tito Vilanova, who was Pep’s assistant manager through all his years on the bench and has received a strong vote of confidence from the players. Vilanova is probably best remember among football viewers for a toss-up in the Supercopa de Espana last year when Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho gouged at his eye. Mourinho was initially suspended from the next Supercopa tournament but that punishment has been lifted.
Other changes at Barcelona include the addition of fullback Jordi Alba, who is hot off an excellent performance for Spain at Euro 2012. He’ll be sure to give La Blaugrana more support up front, where they were distinctly lacking toward the end of last season as the squad could hardly find a way to create chances in the box.
Last year Dani Alves was counted on to do a lot of this work and he clearly needs some help at the back end, so having Alba on Barcelona’s defensive line could do plenty to create more chances.
A big question leading into this season is whether he’s played too damn much football. Last year Alba played out the La Liga season, the Euro and is committed to Spain for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. With a rigorous schedule that will include league play and Champions League competition, will he run out of gas before the season is out?
Changes aren’t quite as apparent at Real Madrid, and why should they be? They had an excellent season last year, deservedly winning the league title on the strength of some outstanding performances by Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain.
One question this year will be who plays together at the front. Ronaldo plays especially well with Di Maria, and can be effective with either Benzema or Higuain, but the latter two haven’t been as successful together. Observers wonder whether one or the other will be on their way out this summer or later this season.
On the transfer front, Los Blancos remain interested in signing Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modric, although they’re facing competition from Chelsea for the Croatian’s services. Adding Modric would give Real Madrid another strong playmaker in midfield, a small-but-quick player skilful at clever and long-range passes.
Brazilian star Kaka hasn’t quite lived up to his potential with Real Madrid and there’s speculation he’s seeking an exit, so having Modric in his place could certainly fill the gap. The question is whether Modric can move at all. He’s tied down to a five-year contract at Tottenham and Chelsea was already unsuccessful at prying him loose. What will it take for Real Madrid to get him?
Below you’ll find the 2012-13 El Clasico schedule. May it be as trenchant and exciting as any that has come before it.