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Aug 12, 2005

Barca hoping for more silverware in Super Cup

MADRID, Aug 12 (Reuters) - After ending a six-year trophy drought by winning the Spanish title last season, Barcelona are hoping for more silverware when they meet King's Cup winners Real Betis in the Spanish Super Cup.

The traditional curtain-raiser to the Spanish season is a two-legged affair with the first game in Seville on Saturday (kickoff 2000 GMT) and the return at the Nou Camp a week later.

'I'm really keen to win this trophy as no one in the present squad has ever won it,' said midfielder Xavi. 'It would be a great way to start the season and would give us a major boost in morale.'

Barcelona lost the Super Cup after winning the league in 1998 and 1999, but won it in 1996 when as runners-up in the King's Cup they beat double winners Atletico Madrid 6-5 on aggregate.

They needed extra-time to beat Betis the last time the two sides met in a final in the 1997 King's Cup and the Andalucians have continued to be a hard nut to crack.

Last season Betis were the first team to defeat Barca in the league with a 2-1 victory in November and they were unlucky to be held to a 3-3 draw at the Nou Camp in April.

Betis, who are coached by former Barca boss Llorenc Serra Ferrer, have already got the first competitive match of the season under their belt.

They earned themselves a deserved 1-0 first-leg win at home to AS Monaco in the third qualifying round of the Champions League thanks to a last-gasp strike by Edu.

The Brazilian forward is hoping his side can produce a similar performance against the league champions on Saturday.

'Like the Monaco game, the important thing is for us not to concede a goal because I'm sure we will have chances to score in the second leg,' he said.

QUALITY PLAYERS

'If we can play against them like we did last season then that will be great, although it's going to be very difficult because of the quality of players they've got.'

Barcelona will be missing versatile centre-back Rafael Marquez, who is on international duty with Mexico, while midfielder Thiago Motta, Dutch left back Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and new signing Santi Ezquerro and are all injured.

The club's other new recruit Mark van Bommel should be given his first competitive outing since signing from PSV Eindhoven.

After missing the Monaco match with a minor ankle problem and resolving a contract dispute with the club, Betis's leading striker, Ricardo Oliveira, should be back for Saturday's match.

The powerful Brazilian, who notched up 22 league goals in the 2004-05 season, scored in both matches against Barca last term and is hopeful his side can begin the present campaign the way they finished off the last.

'It is a great opportunity for us to win another trophy especially after ending last season on such a high with our victory in the Cup,' he says.