Madrid targets win over Barcelona

Luka Modric has little time to adapt to his new surroundings as Real Madrid chases its first victory of the season against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday.

Madrid signed Modric from Tottenham on Monday, a day after a shock loss at Getafe continued its worst start in nearly 40 years. Madrid trails Barcelona 3-2 going into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Madrid spent a reported €35 million ($44 million) on the attacking player with its defense, missing Pepe, struggling and having conceded five goals in two straight losses.

Modric has already trained with the team and was included in the squad by coach Jose Mourinho, who also brought back out-of-favor midfielder Kaka for the first time since the opening round.

”I’m ready, but coach will decide if he use me or not,” Modric said. ”It’s gonna be tough for me to earn a place but that’s the challenge, the biggest challenge of my career. Expectations are as high as possible and I’m ready for that.”

Madrid’s performance at Getafe was ineffective and Mourinho may hope Modric’s arrival provides some kind of a spark for his side with Barcelona in great form to begin the season.

Mourinho said his players had lacked motivation, concentration and ambition at Getafe, and warned that there could be more transfer activity if the performances don’t improve.

”Winning the Super Cup or not, beating Barcelona or not, that’s not important. My priority is to know if what happened in Getafe is a one-off or if it’s a psychological problem of certain players, or of the team,” Mourinho said Tuesday at the Bernabeu. ”That’s the fundamental thing for me tomorrow, to know what players I have.”

Pepe appears to have recovered from being concussed, making the squad with Raul Albiol having failed to convince in his place.

The Catalans have won all three of their matches and have already opened up a five-point gap to Madrid, the defending champion, in the league.

The Copa del Rey champions would have been in firm control of the Super Cup if not for a late error by goalkeeper Victor Valdes that allowed Madrid to pull back an extra away goal.

”I’m surprised that anyone at this level can doubt Valdes,” coach Tito Vilanova said. ”The club has four Champions League trophies, and he was decisive in three of those.”

Defender Carles Puyol could be available despite a fractured right cheekbone after returning to training on Tuesday, a day after the team received an extra boost when midfielder Thiago Alcantara trained for the first time since May. Midfielder Alex Song could make his debut after arriving from Arsenal last week.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was downplaying the importance of a victory in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.

”The season couldn’t have started any better for us,” Pique said. ”(But) the Super Cup is separate to the league. It’s important to win but I don’t think the title will affect the face of the league.”

"It’s surprising that Madrid have lost five points in two games. They’d been unbeaten in the league since December, but Madrid are Madrid, one of the biggest clubs in the world, and they could put together a 30-match winning streak," he said.

However, Pique does not believe a Barca triumph in the Supercopa will strike a terminal blow to Madrid’s title defense.

"I don’t think that the result (tomorrow) will have any influence on the league. Whoever wins the league is the most consistent over 38 games, not the two that we’ve played up until now. No matter how many points there are between us now, the season is very long."

Madrid have been boosted by the arrival of Croatia playmaker Luka Modric, who completed his long-anticipated move to Spain from Tottenham in a deal reportedly worth £33million on Monday.

Modric trained with his new team-mates last night but it remains to be seen if he will be involved on Wednesday night having had a lack of competitive action over the last few months.

Nevertheless, Pique believes Madrid have got themselves a fine player.