RIYADH: Real Madrid’s 3-2 victory over Barcelona in extra time in the first El Clasico of the new year has given Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti his first chance of claiming silverware since returning to the club.
Asked who he would prefer to meet in the final, Ancelotti told Arab News in the post-match press conference: “It’s the same for me whoever we face. What matters is we’re in the final.”
League champions Atletico Madrid will play Copa del Rey runners-up Athletic Bilbao on Thursday in the second semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup held in Riyadh. The winner will face Real in the final on Sunday.
“Both teams are good. I look forward to seeing them compete tomorrow,” Ancelotti added.
Barcelona put on a promising display on Wednesday, but are still finding their way as players return from lengthy layoffs.
However, following the introduction of new signing Ferran Torres, there is a renewed air of optimism.
“We are on the right track,” Barcelona center back Gerard Pique said after the match. “Playing like this, we can begin to win and compete for titles.”
Federico Valverde scored the winning goal for Real Madrid to continue his outstanding record in this competition, but replied cautiously after the game: “They’re still Barcelona, even if the results haven’t been there. In my opinion, we have to convert more of the chances we get.”
In his post-match comments, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez was critical of his players’ slow start to the game.
“For the first 20 minutes we still showed doubts from recent times, but we got rid of those and we competed,” he said.
Xavi agreed with Pique’s verdict that the club has a bright future, saying: “We’re not so far from what our La Liga standing reflects.”
After such a tight affair, Xavi’s frustration was clear as he told reporters: “We had it. We had it. It was a game that was a coin flip and it turned out one way, but it could have turned out another. We’re proud, we competed and we have to continue on this path.”
Meanwhile, Real Madrid can look forward to the final on Sunday in Riyadh as they await the winners of the second semifinal.