Barca eyes El Clasico upset over Real in Spanish Super Cup semi

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SPORTS DESK

MADRID: A recovering Barcelona will look to upset a dominating Real Madrid that has assumed firm control of the La Liga as the archrivals meet in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday.

It is traditional to say there are no favorites in the Clasico but this time even Real coach Carlo Ancelotti was unable to keep up the pretense.

For the past decade, there has been some justification in the usual platitudes, the assertion that games between Real Madrid and Barcelona have a rhythm unto themselves, that form is no measure and the victor will be the one that holds firmer in the heat of the battle.

Any superiority has been fleeting, a strong run of form here, a vulnerable coach there. Sometimes the dynamic has depended simply on the competition the game has been played in.

Since 2010, 40 meetings have brought 16 Barcelona victories, 10 draws and 14 wins for Real Madrid.

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team was the last to enjoy real dominance, beginning a run of five consecutive wins in 2008 that included a 6-2 thrashing at the Santiago Bernabeu and a 5-0 humiliation at Camp Nou. Across those five games, Barcelona claimed an aggregate score of 16-2.

Since then, neither club had put together four wins on the bounce against the other, until this season, when Madrid ground out a 2-1 victory in the rain at Camp Nou in October, in what was the first meeting of the two clubs since Lionel Messi departed last summer.

Madrid’s ascendancy has not been so dramatic, or even, until recently, particularly noticeable. Unlike Guardiola’s Barca, it is not dominance of ideas or style. There is yet to be a scoreline that spells out their supremacy in capital letters.

Yet Real Madrid are clear favorites on Wednesday in the semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup, staged not in Spain, but Saudi Arabia.

The winner will play either Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao in Sunday’s final in Riyadh.

Airlifting the competition 7,000 kilometers will earn the Spanish football federation an extra 300 million euros ($339.77 million) but the result has been outrage, not least because of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, even if the objections grow quieter every year.