Barça won the last two editions of the Copa Catalunya, beating Espanyol on penalties both times

FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol meet tonight in the Catalan Super Cup (9.30 PM CET). But although this is the very first time the trophy has been contested, the competition continues a tradition that goes back well over a hundred years.

For the first quarter of the 20th century, the Catalonian Championship was the bread of butter for FC Barcelona and the other Catalan clubs. It provided almost all of the fixtures during the season, with the champions going on to represent Catalonia in the knockout Spanish Cup.

Forty year absence

Created in 1903 to replace the former Copa Macaya, it existed for almost four decades. Barça, with 21 titles and Espanyol, with 11, dominated by winning all but five editions. In 1940, the Franco regime banned all regional football leagues, insisting all clubs joined the national pyramid, although since the formation of the Spanish Liga in 1929, interest in the Catalonian Championship was already waning.

Following the restoration of democracy, what was called the Copa de la Generalitat was created, first unofficially in 1984 and only for amateur teams, and then officially from 1989 with Barça and Espanyol also being allowed to compete. From 1993, the competition was rebranded as the Copa Catalunya.

A super idea

Naturally, Catalonia’s ‘big two’ have dominated the competition, Barça reaching the final 17 times and winning nine, and Espanyol  playing 14 finals and winning six. However, finding a place for the matches in an already packed fixture list has always presented a problem, and it has not always been easy for them to field full-strength sides. So, after experimenting with a variety of formats, the current idea of the Catalan Super Cup was conceived.

It means that the two first division clubs will play each other in a single match, to be played this year at the Estadi Montilivi, Girona. Lower tier clubs, including the Barça and Espanyol reserve teams, will continue to compete for the old Copa Catalunya. Should any other Catalan clubs be promoted to the top flight (and with Girona currently top of the second division that’s a very strong possibility) then the format of the Catalan Super Cup will probably need to be adjusted to accommodate them.