On Wednesday at 8.00pm CET, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid meet for the second time in the 2021/22 season, this time in the Spanish Super Cupwhich is being played this week in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.
Barça are competing as the current Copa del Rey winners, and Madrid as last year’s League runners-up. The prize for the victors is a place in Sunday’s final (9.30pm CET) against either the defending Liga champions, Atlético Madridor beaten cup finalists Athletic Clubwho will be meeting in the second semi-final on Thursday.
All three of the games are being played in the 68,752 capacity King Fahd International Stadium.
Barça in Saudi Arabia
This is the second time that the Spanish Super Cup has been held in the Middle Eastern country. Two years ago, Barça lost a dramatic semi-final to Atlético Madrid when the King Abdullah Sports CityJeddah, hosted the event.
Due to Covid-19, the 2021 Super Cup was relocated to Andalusia, but now it is back in Saudi Arabia, this time in Riyadh, a city that Barça are returning to less than a month after appearing at Missool Park to contest the Maradona Cup with Boca Juniors of Argentina.
The Super Cup
With 13 victories since it was first held in 1982, Barça have won this trophy more times than any other team. Real Madrid are second with 11 wins.
Traditionally, it has been a preseason game between the previous season’s league and cup winners. The expanded format, played midseason in January and featuring the runners-up in both those competitions too, was introduced in 2020.
The defending champions are Athletic Club, who beat Barça 3-2 after extra time in January of last year.
Xavi has taken 26 players on the trip. Despite traveling with the squad with injury doubts, Ronald Araujo, Ansu Fati, and Frenkie de Jong have all since been passed fit. Joining them are Peter and Ferran Torres, with the latter having the chance to make his first appearance for Barça since joining from Manchester City. He and Pedri were not included in the original traveling party, but were able to catch up with the rest of the group after testing negative for Covid-19 on Tuesday.
If picked, as many as eight different players could be getting their first experience of a game against Real Madrid.
Last five games
Jan 8 (LIGA) Granada 1-1 Barça
Jan 5 (COPA) Linares 1-2 Barca
Jan 2 (LIGA) Mallorca 0-1 Barca
Dec 21 (LIGA) Sevilla 1-1 Barça
Dec 18 (LEAGUE) Barca 3-2 Elche
Jan 8 (LEAGUE) Real Madrid 4-1 Valencia
Jan 5 (COPA) Alcoyano 1-3 Real Madrid
Jan 2 (LEAGUE) Getafe 1-0 Real Madrid
Dec 22 (LEAGUE) Athletic Club 1-2 Real Madrid
Dec 19 (LIGA) Real Madrid 0-0 Cadiz
Real Madrid come into this game with a 5-point lead on Sevilla at the top of the Liga table, 17 points ahead of sixth placed Barça. Their defeat at Getafe earlier this month was just their second of the season after also losing to Espanyol in October.
Unlike Barça, Real Madrid managed to progress into the knockout stages of the Champions League, where they have an enticing match-up with Paris St Germain to look forward to in the next round.
After an uncharacteristically poor start to the campaign, things have improved considerably at FC Barcelona, especially since Xavi Hernandez took over as head coach and with the alarmingly long list of injuries slowly being reduced. However, the winning form, which has got the blaugrana right back into contention for at least a top four finish, took something of a dip with a 1-1 draw in Granada at the weekend.
Head to head
Barça were enjoying one of their most amazing spells against the old enemy, including a record four consecutive league wins at the Bernabéu and a fabulous 5-1 victory at Camp Nou.
However, there has been a sudden swing in the other direction in recent years, with Barça winless in five meetings including back-to-back losses at Camp Nou.
Earlier this season David Alaba and Lucas Vázquez scored in a 2-1 win for Madrid in the Catalan capital, with Sergi Agüero‘s goal coming too late to serve as anything but small consolation.
24 Oct 2021 (LEAGUE) Barça 1-2 Real Madrid
10 Apr 2021 (LEAGUE) Real Madrid 2-1 Barça
24 Oct 2020 (LEAGUE) Barça 1-3 Real Madrid
1 Mar 2020 (LEAGUE) Real Madrid 2-0 Barca
18 Dec 2019 (LIGA) Barça 0-0 Real Madrid
The main message at the press conference was this is a great opportunity for Barça to win a trophy and that he is delighted to have some first-team squad members available for selection after injury and illness. Here are some of his quotes:
“It’s an opportunity for us. It’s a challenge and we are really up for it, we have a trophy to play for and we will try to impose ourselves. In my experience, a Clásico is unpredictable and you never know what might happen”.
“It’s great news for us that both Ferran and Pedri returned negative PCR tests. Being able to call on them and get Ansu back is very good news”. “I am very pleased and happy to have them back, they are essential for the system we want to use”.
The skipper also had his say at the press conference and wants Barça to stick to their style. He also views it as a “great chance to win a trophy” and “it will give us great confidence for what is to come”.