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NEYMAR

Neymar shines as Barca hit straight eight

Brazilian international Neymar and new manager Gerardo Martino got their first taste of the Camp Nou on Friday as Barcelona destroyed Santos 8-0 to lift the Joan Gamper trophy.

Neymar shines as Barca hit straight eight
Neymar in action for his new club against old side Santos. Photo: AFP / Jose Jordan

The Brazilian opponents were confirmed for the annual glamour friendly as part of the transfer agreement that saw Neymar move to the Catalan giants in June.

But they were hopelessly exposed by a strong Barca side as two goals from Cesc Fabregas, allied to further strikes from Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez, Pedro, Adriano, Jean Marie Dongou and an own goal from Leo made it a comfortable evening for the hosts.

However, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Neymar when he made his bow at half-time and the 21-year-old made a positive impression despite failing to get on the scoresheet himself as he teed up Fabregas' second and Barca's sixth of the night 20 minutes from time.

"I am not too worried about not scoring," Neymar told Catalan TV staion TV3.

"It is just great to be here playing for Barcelona and to play with players like Xavi, Cesc and Messi."

Martino, who has succeeded cancer-stricken Tito Vilanova, named a strong side on his own first home outing as the club's new boss with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Serio Busquets and Dani Alves starting for the first time in pre-season following their participation in the Confederations Cup.

It didn't take the hosts long to get into their stride though as Pedro fed Messi to fire home the opener from a tight angle after just eight minutes.

Leo could then only turn a dangerous cross from Alves into his own net three minutes later and Barca were three up inside 22 minutes when Messi unselfishly set up Sanchez to roll the ball just inside the far corner.

Pedro made it four just moments later when he turned home Jordi Alba's low cross and with the game comfortably sewn up Martino made eight changes at
half-time.

Fabregas was one of those introduced at the break and he made it five just seven minutes after the restart with a composed finish from Sanchez's pass.

Neymar then made his presence felt against his old club with a nicely weighted cut-back that Fabregas side-footed home before Adriano fired a 20-yard screamer into the far corner.

And Fabregas was involved again as he presented 18-year-old Dongou with an open goal to round off the scoring seven minutes from time.
 

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FOOTBALL

Barça seek Super Cup tonic to Neymar hangover

Barcelona host rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday badly in need of a morale-boosting win following the world record sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barça seek Super Cup tonic to Neymar hangover
Barcelona forwards Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Photo: AFP

Despite banking 222 million euros for the Brazilian, Barça's scattergun approach to finding a replacement has so far been unsuccessful with bids for Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele of Borussia Dortmund so far rebuffed.

New Barça coach Ernesto Valverde must therefore try to down the European and Spanish champions with a weaker squad than the one which missed out to Real for the La Liga title last season.

However, Barça did manage to beat Madrid without the then-suspended Neymar the last time the sides met in competitive action back in April as Lionel Messi won an incredible encounter 3-2 with the last kick of the game.

The Catalans also edged last month's Miami friendly between the two in Neymar's last game for Barça 3-2.

Valverde's men completed a perfect pre-season on the field with a fourth straight win by sweeping aside Chapecoense 5-0 on Monday in a match to raise funds for the stricken Brazilian club who lost 19 players and 24 club officials in a plane crash last year.

“We've had a good pre-season and we are coming into the game in good condition,” said Valverde.

“But on Sunday the real thing starts, with a competitive game and a title at stake against our biggest rivals.”

Gerard Deulofeu was handed Neymar's role alongside Messi and Luis Suarez up front against Chapecoense on his return to the club after spells at Everton and AC Milan.

And the Spanish international took his chance with a goal and two assists in just 45 minutes on the field.

“It is always a pleasure to play here and even more so with these players,” said Deulofeu.

Valverde is likely to stick with Deulofeu, but the former Athletic Bilbao coach could also strengthen Barça's midfield by sacrificing a forward to add Sergi Roberto to the normal midfield three of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta.

Despite failing to win any of their pre-season games, Madrid started the new campaign as they ended last season with another trophy as Zinedine Zidane's men proved too strong for Manchester United to win the UEFA Super Cup 2-1 on Tuesday.

Casemiro and Isco were on target as Madrid's midfield dazzled in Skopje, Macedonia, but Zidane will be forced into at least one change from the side that started in midweek as Luka Modric is suspended.

Should Zidane wish to maintain the 4-4-2 system he has utilised to huge success in 2017, Mateo Kovacic is the favourite to replace his Croatian teammate in midfield.

However, Modric's absence increases Cristiano Ronaldo's chances of returning to the Madrid starting XI after making just a brief cameo appearance as a substitute against his former club in Macedonia.

Ronaldo only returned to training with his teammates last weekend on their return from a tour of the USA having been given an extended break following Portugal's participation in the Confederations Cup and a court appearance in Madrid over allegations of tax evasion.

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