Barcelona took a big step towards lifting the Spanish Super Cup after second-half strikes from Luis Suarez and Munir El Haddadi sealed a 2-0 win at Sevilla in the first leg on Sunday.
Suarez, La Liga top scorer last season, broke the deadlock with a low finish in the 53rd minute and substitute Munir doubled the lead in the 81st barely five minutes after coming on to put Barca on top before Wednesday’s return at the Nou Camp.
“It’s a very good result, it’s not definitive, but the second leg is mapped out for us,” said Barca coach Luis Enrique.
“I feel very positive and not just because of the result. We knew what Sevilla were capable of and how intense they were, and they are even stronger at their own stadium.
“We played well in the first half but were better in the second half. We created more danger, more chances and our build up play was better.”
With Neymar on Olympic Games duty with Brazil, Luis Enrique fielded Arda Turan behind Lionel Messi and Suarez in an otherwise familiar looking Barca side.
Despite a bright start, Barca struggled for long periods at the Sanchez Pizjuan and Luis Enrique was forced to make first-half substitutions as defender Jeremy Mathieu and midfield maestro Andres Iniesta were forced off with injuries.
Luis Enrique’s opposite number Jorge Sampaoli made his home bow after coming so close to beating Real Madrid to the UEFA Super Cup last week in his first competitive game in charge.
There were further signs that Sevilla have adapted quickly to the former Chile coach’s intense brand of football, although they could have fallen behind early on.
Sergio Busquets carved a pass into the path of Suarez, who turned his marker effortlessly but drilled his shot straight at Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
That chance aside, the hosts controlled the first period, overpowering Barca in midfield and winning several corners although also struggling to produce clear-cut chances.
Iniesta’s injury allowed former Sevilla player Denis Suarez to make his first competitive appearance for Barcelona after rejoining the club from Villarreal.
He crafted Barca’s opener, finding space in midfield and playing a delightful ball which Turan chested down into the path of Suarez, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner.
“This was a vital win against an uncomfortable opponent,” said the Uruguay striker. “We’ve got a small advantage but in the second leg at home we’ll have to give everything.”
The goal rocked Sevilla and put the wind in Barca’s sails and it looked inevitable that they would extend their lead.
Barely a minute after scoring, Suarez teed up Messi but Rico punched the Argentine’s dinked effort away, and the young goalkeeper then denied Sergi Roberto at the near post.
Munir banished Sevilla’s hopes of finding a way back when he latched onto Messi’s low pass and flicked the ball beyond Rico with the outside of his boot, repeating the scoreline by which Barca beat Sevilla in last season’s Kings’ Cup final.