Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF (R) duels for the ball with Dani Alves of FC Barcelona during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barcelona and Real Madrid contest the 2012 Spanish Super Cup on August 23, 2012. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Real Madrid and Barcelona play the first Clasico of the year on Thursday, contesting the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
The first of two early editions of El Clasico kicks off on Thursday evening from the Camp Nou. Barcelona and Real Madrid were the best performing teams in last year's domestic competitions in Spain once again, and they meet in the Spanish Super Cup for the second consecutive year.
Real Madrid's only serious injury doubt is Pepe, who collided with Iker Casillas during Los Merengues' La Liga season opener. Jose Mourinho has a full team to pick from otherwise, creating a few selection dilemmas for him. One of Mesut Özil or Angel Di Maria should get a rest and sit out for a more defensive midfielder, while Gonzalo Higuain could start over Karim Benzema up top.
Barcelona are without Thiago Alcantara, but still have an embarrassment of riches in midfield. Even without Thiago, they'll still have Cesc Fabregas and new signing Alex Song available off the bench. Carles Puyol is finally back to full fitness, and Barcelona should have the best back four they've fielded in a couple of years when they take the pitch at the Camp Nou on Thursday.
Game Date/Time: Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET, 10:30 p.m. local
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
TV: ESPN Deportes (U.S.), Sky Sports 2 (U.K.), GolTV (Canada)
We'll have updates throughout the day and live coverage of the match in our Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, 2012 Spanish Super Cup StoryStream. For more on the Blaugrana, head over to FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes. For more on Los Blancos, check out Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid. For more from around the world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on twitter.