Tito Vilanova was still Pep
Guardiola's Barcelona assistant when he hit the headlines last
August after Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho jabbed him in the
eye during a touchline scuffle in the Spanish Super Cup.
Twelve months on he has replaced his good friend in the
Barca hot seat and returns to face his tormentor this time as
coach in the first leg of the 2012 edition at the Nou Camp on
Holders Barca arrive as King's Cup winners and it is a first
chance to measure up Vilanova's side against the league
champions, with tensions between the Spanish giants eased since
last year's low point.
A mass brawl between players at the end of the 2011 second
leg resulted in three red cards while television images of
Mourinho's attack on Vilanova led to harsh recriminations.
Mourinho was eventually given a two-match Super Cup ban, and
Vilanova one game for his retaliatory gesture, but both
punishments have since been lifted by federation president Angel
Mourinho, who had refused to apologise to anyone but Madrid
fans for his actions, calmed the waters earlier this month by
saying he was wrong.
Vilanova has also sought to put the incident behind him as
he takes up the baton from Guardiola who swept up 14 trophies in
his four years at the helm.
Barca made a flying start to their league campaign with a
5-1 mauling of Real Sociedad on Sunday, gaining an immediate
advantage over arch-rivals Real Madrid who drew 1-1 at home
Vilanova's league debut as coach was made all the sweeter by
striker David Villa's return from an eight-month injury layoff
due to a broken leg to score the fifth goal of the night as a
Spain's all-time leading scorer is still short of match
fitness and is unlikely to start on Thursday, a similar scenario
facing new signing Alex Song.
One man who will start, though, is the irrepressible Lionel
Messi who netted twice and had numerous chances to complete a
The World Player of the Year, who scored an incredible 73
goals in all competitions last season, has a knack of finding
the back of the net against Real and looked particularly sharp
as Barca produced a high-tempo performance full of attacking
"The team still has the same philosophy and style as with
Guardiola," Messi told Barca TV.
"The dressing room are still hungry for titles. I want to
win everything we play for, like Tito. It's tough but we will
Messi's and Barca's snappy display contrasted with that of
Real's and their leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo at the
Albeit against stronger opposition, Real were slow to get
into their stride while a quiet Ronaldo failed to fire a single
shot on target.
"I am not yet 100 percent but I hope to get back to top form
soon," said Ronaldo.
His Portuguese international team mate Pepe is a doubt after
suffering a hefty blow to his head in a collision with Iker
Casillas and having spent Sunday evening in hospital as a
precaution having momentarily lost consciousness.
Mourinho's men won on their last visit to the Nou Camp when
Ronaldo struck the decider for a 2-1 La Liga triumph that
effectively wrapped up the title in April.
Although Barca held the edge in the 'clasicos' under
Guardiola, Real have only lost once under Mourinho in their last
four visits to Catalunya across all competitions.
The return leg is at the Bernabeu on August 29.
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