Barcelona aims for UEFA Super Cup win without Neymar

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 11, 2015 10:43 AM
Barcelona aims for UEFA Super Cup win without Neymar
Luis Suarez (#9) and the rest of Barcelona will play minus Neymar in the UEFA Super Cup opener on Tuesday (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press).

JAMES ELLINGWORTH, Associated Press

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Barcelona is bidding to match one of the greatest years in its history by winning six titles in 2015, but will have to cope without striker Neymar in Tuesday's season-opening UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla.

After winning the Champions League and the Spanish league and cup double last season, Barcelona is looking to match its record-breaking 2009 calendar year by winning the UEFA and Spanish Super Cups, plus the Club World Cup.

"It's not so easy to get our six titles, very few teams have done that, but tomorrow we'll get started on that," said Andres Iniesta, who starts his first season as Barcelona captain following Xavi Hernandez's summer departure, through a translator. "We're very excited to secure those six titles once again."

Neymar was ruled out for two weeks Sunday after catching mumps even though the club said he had previously been vaccinated against the disease.

"We'll miss his energy and joy," fellow Brazilian Dani Alves said.

Left-back Jordi Alba is also absent with a thigh injury, while summer arrivals Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan are ineligible until January due to a transfer ban. They have still traveled to Tbilisi, as has forward Pedro, who may be sold before the transfer window closes.

"As a teammate and as a player, with all his capabilities, we really hope (Pedro) will stay with us because he's a world category player, spectacular," Iniesta said. "He's still our teammate, he's here with us to earn this first title of the season with us."

For Barcelona, the game follows a busy pre-season with games in the United States, Italy and the club's home ground Camp Nou, while for Europa League holder Sevilla, it comes after a summer of change.

Three of the players who started for Sevilla in May's Europa League final have left, including Colombian striker Carlos Bacca, who scored twice in the final, a 3-2 win over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Among the new faces for Unai Emery's team is Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka, who played for Dnipro in that game.

Emery said through a translator that he was "content" with Konoplyanka's adaptation to the team, aided by the arrival of Russian-speaking assistant coach Dmitry Cheryshev, and that the winger's output had been solid in pre-season but "it needs to be even better."

The Super Cup is the first major European final to be held in Georgia, where conditions are likely to be warm and dry, despite a very late kickoff at 10.45 p.m. local time. That will suit European TV networks, but not necessarily the local fans who rushed for tickets in a rapid sell-out.

The Super Cup was played in Monaco from 1998 until 2012, but now takes place at a neutral venue chosen by UEFA. That spreads the spoils of UEFA competition around smaller federations at a time when UEFA president Michel Platini is running for president of FIFA.

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