The arrival of the new year anticipated a 2022 full of sports competitions and starting Spain will have to offer the definition of the Super Cup, which will be historic. For being disputed in Saudi Arabia? No, that already happened in the 2020 edition that Real Madrid beat Atlético on penalties in the city of Jeddah. On this occasion, the contest will not feature Lionel Messi for the first time in many seasons and it is no small thing: Leo is the competition’s all-time top scorer with 14 touchdowns and is the top winner, with eight coronations.
And Barcelona, classified for staying with the Copa del Rey 2020-21, does not stop missing him. Since his noisy departure that sportingly and financially the Catalan team has not raised its head. With a decimated team and supported by the emotional injection represented by Xavi’s arrival as technical director, Culé will undertake a trip to Arab territory to return with the cup that he was able to obtain 13 times. Who will he face to make it possible?
For two years, the format of the Spanish tournament has been modified and has hosted four entities in three games: two semifinals and, logically, the decisive duel. This time, Blaugrana will face off on Wednesday 12 from 4:00 p.m. against Merengue (runner-up in the last league) and on the other hand, Atleti (won La Liga) will face Athletic Bilbao, the current champion of the Super Cup (they beat Barça 3-2 at La Cartuja), on Thursday the 13th at the same time. It should be remembered that the meetings will be broadcast by DirecTV Sports for Latin America and can be followed on the Olé website.
Once the finalists have been defined, the King Fahd Stadium, located in Riyadh and with a capacity for 68,752 people, will host the decisive game to be played on January 16. In case of finishing tied, he will offer an extra time (two of 15 minutes) and, if the equality persists, he will go to penalties. Built in 1987 and renovated with the largest roof among the fields in the world, all the Super Cup matches will be played there.
Xavi will seek his eighth title as a coach.
How do the mentioned teams arrive? Barcelona, the winner, does not arrive well. Last Saturday Granada tied it over the final (1-1), a result that did not go down well indoors because it marginalized it to sixth place in La Liga, 17 points from the top. Of course, the cast of Xavi, who will not have Eric García due to injury, accumulates six games without knowing defeat in official tournaments.
Real Madrid, who lifted the Super Cup 11 times, is going through a very different present: a leader in the tournament with 49 units out of 63 possible, will reach the classic after beating Valencia 4-1 with Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema on fire. For their part, Gareth Bale and Mariano Díaz were left out of the payroll presented by Carlo Ancelotti. El Merengue will seek title number 92 in its award-winning history.
Benzema is La Liga’s top scorer with 17 goals in 20 games played.
Regarding Athletic, which won the last edition and two other times, it is not going well in the domestic competition and is ranked ninth, with 28 points in 20 dates. Likewise, with Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniaín as the main figures in the offense, the Basques are the second least thrashed team in Spain with 17 goals conceded (13 have Sevilla). In fact, in their last presentation they drew 0-0 against Alavés. Unai Vencedor will miss the competition due to injury and, although he showed a physical improvement, the scorer Asier Villalibre would not arrive in conditions either.
Athletic was crowned champion of the last edition of the Super Cup.
As for Atlético Madrid, which won the trophy in 1985 and 2014, it will be the one with the largest and only Argentine contribution. With Diego Simeone at the helm, the Colchonero comes from equaling a frenzied 2-2 match against Villarreal that kept him in fourth place in the tournament, far from the 16-point dispute with Real. With the sensitive loss due to injury of Antoine Griezmann, Ángel Correa and Rodrigo De Paul will seek their first star in this competition.
Simeone already won the Super Cup in 2014 as Atlético’s coach and will look for his ninth star in the Madrid team.
Beyond the sporting glory, the simple fact of participating already leaves an important financial prize to the institutions. The Federation distributes 16 million euros among the four participants and, in addition, there will be bonuses for the results: 1.4 million for the finalists and two more clubs for the champion.