Although the new year has only just begun, the first silverware of the season is available in Spain.
Thanks to a decision by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), the Spanish Super Cup is no longer a two-legged pre-season affair.
It’s been replaced by a ‘final four’ type competition.Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia will battle it out for the trophy in Saudi Arabia, and it’s not gone down well with the club’s themselves.
Barca, for example, travel to the Middle East after their Catalan derby at Espanyol, and have tough league games against Granada and Valencia upon their return, whilst Real Madrid have to play Sevilla and Atleti in two of their three games directly after the tournament.
Although the Spanish Super Cup is often seen as the least desirable trophy to win, given the quality of the opponents involved – Barca play Atleti in the semis, Real play Valencia – none of the four will want to go home empty handed.
It’s a very delicate balancing act for Ernesto Valverde, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Simeone and Albert Celades. Do they play their strongest XIs in what would be expected to be two tough battles, or are their squads strong enough to allow youth or reserve players to be given a run out?
The scheduling isn’t ideal either, given that all of the clubs involved would normally be playing the earlier rounds of the Copa del Rey, and almost certainly second string XIs to give their top players a well-earned rest.
With the cup games postponed and rearranged, it means fixture congestion slightly later in the campaign, and when the Champions League knockout stages come around again.
Fatigue has been Barcelona’s worst enemy over recent seasons, so this really does them no favours whatsoever.
That said, winning a trophy always puts a bit of a spring in the step, so perhaps going on and winning it will be of benefit to whomever it is that lifts the title.
The deal for the tournament to take place in Saudi Arabia runs for the next few seasons, and how this first edition runs will largely author what happens in subsequent years.
Regardless of the whys and wherefores, great quality on the pitch is almost assured.
No quarter will be asked or given with any of the quartet, and with injured players returning by then, the locals should be assured of seeing the best of the best going toe to toe.