RIYADH: The Spanish Super Cup is being held in Saudi Arabia for the second time as part of a blockbuster deal between the Royal Spanish Football Federation and the Kingdom.
It will host the champions and runners up of La Liga and the Copa Del Rey every year until 2029 in Saudi Arabia. Fans worldwide will witness history as it will be the first official “El Clasico” match to be held outside of Spain.
Kicking off with the first of two semi-finals on Wednesday, Barcelona and Real Madrid face off at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
“El Clasico” is considered the most anticipated and heated spectacle in football, with Real and Barca having faced each other on seven prior occasions in this format. Real have bested their rivals in five out of their seven meetings, despite Barca being the most decorated team in the Spanish Cup’s history.
In 2020, Saudi fans were deprived of a showdown between the two footballing giants when Barca crashed out in the semis of the Spanish Super Cup at the hands of Atletico Madrid, ending fans' hopes of an “El Clasico” final.
At a press conference held in Riyadh on Tuesday, Real’s Toni Kroos told reporters of his team’s desire to win all the competitions they were participating in.
“The objective is to win tomorrow (Jan. 12). We will train to know the conditions, but I am clear we are here to win.”
The two sides come into this contest on two completely different trajectories.
Real are still competing for all major honors, whereas Barca are looking to salvage an already disappointing campaign that has seen them knocked out from the group stages of the Champions League and set adrift in La Liga by table-toppers Real at the midway point of the season.
The beauty of cup competitions is the unpredictability as, regardless of a team’s current form, all it takes is 90 minutes to determine who advances. As Real manager Carlo Ancelotti said: “It’s always going to be an even game, the numbers in the league do not count. It is a semi-final of the Super Cup and it starts 0-0.”
It will be Xavi’s first “El Clasico” as manager of Barca, and fans will be hoping that their team musters up a performance worthy of their heritage as a reminder to their rivals that their best days are ahead of them.
“We will strive to use everything in our arsenal to get to the final and win,” said Sergio Busquets, holding midfielder for Barca. “It’ll be easy for us to get there, it’s one game and then a shot at the cup.”
Real, on the other hand, will look to continue their momentum and will be depending on their prolific duo of Benzema and Vinicius Jr., who have a combined 35 goals and 17 assists this season to help them beat their rivals for a second time this campaign.
New faces, different circumstances, and another chapter in this illustrious footballing rivalry.