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Alves predicts team will strengthen

BARCELONA, Spain, August 17 – Barcelona’s Dani Alves has told Real Madrid to expect a far more fluid display from the champions when the two great rivals meet in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday.

Barca looked rusty in Sunday’s first leg at the Bernabeu, but still earned a 2-2 draw, with David Villa and Lionel Messi netting in between efforts from Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso for Madrid.

After four Clasicos at the tail-end of last season and the pair meeting again in the Spanish curtain-raiser, the two sides know each other inside out, but both are looking to gain the upper hand psychologically with victory in the traditional season opener before the more important trophies are contested.

The pressure is on Madrid coach Jose Mourinho to topple the Barca hegemony in his second season after the Catalan side won the domestic league and the Champions League in 2010-11.

Madrid did beat their bitter rivals in the King’s Cup final but it was the least important of the competitions.

The clashes last season were dogged by controversy due to bad tackles and poor sportsmanship that left a poor image, and while the challenges were not quite as nasty on Sunday, the competitive edge was still very much there.

Mourinho had played down the game beforehand but his side began with plenty of desire and took the game to a Barca lacking their trademark slick passing.

It was understandable as Madrid have had a more demanding pre-season schedule and they looked fresh for the challenge while Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has wanted his players to take things easy ahead of the new campaign.

Furthermore, several of his players had been involved in the Copa America last month and only had a handful of training sessions ahead of the game.

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“We will improve as we go along. It was a hard fought match with a high intensity and I am happy with the work of the team who responded well,” said Brazilian Alves.

“Some of the players were only just ready for the game but in the end the element which worried us most, being physically prepared, worked out okay and gradually we found our feet.”

Barca scored twice against the run of play as Madrid controlled the game for long spells, but Alves was just pleased to come away from such a tough venue with a positive result.

“It was a good result for us as it was never going to be easy against a quality Real Madrid side and we will be better prepared for the next game,” he added.

“We coped physically and now we will be a lot sharper at the Camp Nou where we will look to achieve our objective.”

Having finally completed his signing, Cesc Fabregas has trained with his new Barcelona teammates and is expected to be in the squad for Wednesday’s match.

Meanwhile, the Madrid players left the pitch feeling they deserved more having had the better chances and coming as close as anyone to seizing the majority of the possession from Guardiola’s men.

“We had more of the ball and I have to be satisfied with the way we played if not with the result,” said keeper Iker Casillas.

“We should have got more from the first half and then just before the break we conceded a poor goal but we still have our sights on winning the Super Cup, which may be a minor trophy as the coach has said, but is still the most important of the preseason.”

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