Lionel Messi will be unavailable for the Spanish Super Cup semi-final against Real Sociedad, and Koeman will still need to play his strongest XI possible. For those wondering – with Champions League, La Liga, and Copa del Rey, is the Spanish Super Cup important at all? The answer is yes, but recent changes to the format have complicated that response.

The Spanish Super Cup in its modern iteration began in 1982 when Barcelona’s 2021 semi-final opponent La Real defeated Real Madrid 4-1 on aggregate. Until 2018, when Barcelona beat Sevilla in a single game in Tangier, Morocco, the Super Copa had always been played over two legs in Spain. With the exception of three occasions, the first leg was always played at the cup winner’s home stadium.

Last year things changed to a four-team format as Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona traveled to Saudi Arabia. The move was heavily criticized and has returned to Spain to be contested this year in Andalusia, unfortunately without fans due to the pandemic.

The Spanish Super Cup’s predecessor, the Copa Eva Duarte (1947-1953), was won by Barcelona three times, though the last two were awarded to the club for winning the La Liga and Copa del Rey double. Barcelona has also collected the most Spanish Super Cup trophies, winning the competition 13 times to Real Madrid’s 11. They have also made the most finals, 23 to Madrid’s 15.

For more on Barcelona’s history in the Spanish Super Cup:

Spanish Super Cup

As evidenced by that video, Barcelona usually play a strong XI in the competition, even if it’s seen as a minor trophy. This season the prize money could prove to be a little extra incentive for Koeman to push the players. 800,000 euros have been awarded for participating, but there is an extra 600,000 for making the final and an additional 600,000 after that for winning the trophy.

Going back to Koeman’s options, it is unfortunate that he’ll have to do it without the leading goalscorer in the competition. Messi’s 14 goals are double the second highest goalscorer Raúl with seven. Third and fourth on that list are two former Dream Team players, Hristo Stoichkov and Txiki Begiristain, both with six.

That means that the duo of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé, with assistance from Pedri and Frenkie de Jong, must show up against Real Sociedad. Barcelona defeated the Basque side 2-1 a few weeks ago, and La Real may have figured some things out since.

Expected line-ups:

Barcelona (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Alba, Lenglet, Araújo, Dest; Busquets, de Jong, Pedri; Dembélé, Braithwaite, Griezmann

Real Sociedad (4-3-3): Remiro; Gorosabel, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Monreal; Merino, Guevara, Guridi; Portu, Willian José, Oyarzabal

Dan Hilton is an American journalist, broadcaster, and current Editor-in-Chief of BarcaBlog. Extensive work as a play-by-play broadcaster, producer behind the scenes, and quite average player in his younger years has given him a well-rounded and informative perspective on the sport. Alongside BarcaBlog founder Francesc, Dan started The Barcelona Podcast in 2017