It feels somewhat peculiar that having just returned from Spain’s two-week winter break, with La Liga fixtures played last weekend, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia are in Saudi Arabia of all places to contest the newly formatted Spanish Supercopa. What used to be the traditional curtain-raised to the Spanish Liga season is now a mid-season mini tournament played abroad.
The change in format and host has naturally caused controversy. Few within Spanish football are in favour of the move to Saudi Arabia in particular, both from a human rights point of view and a travelling perspective. Indeed, few have made the trip out from Spain with Atletico Madrid and Valencia in particular only selling a handful of tickets for their respective semi finals.
However, there is a certain symbolism at play here. The Spanish Supercopa might not be much more than just decoration for the trophy cabinet, but it could see one of Barcelona or Real Madrid put down a marker just weeks after a dull Clasico clash which couldn’t divide the two rivals. This could do more to set the tone of the title race.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have both suffered their problems this season. The two rivals have struggled for consistency, but the latter appear to have more momentum behind them at this moment. In terms of the league table, only goal difference is enough to put Barca ahead of Real Madrid right now.
Of course, the Catalans still have to get past Atletico Madrid on Thursday evening to set up a Clasico meeting with Real Madrid in this weekend’s final, but winning the Spanish Supercopa, even if they do so without beating their main title rivals, would be a real statement of intent from Zinedine Zidane and his players.
“We’re not coming here for a walk,” Zidane explained after of the convincing 3-1 semi final win over Valencia on Wednesday. “It’s the first edition in Saudi Arabia and the competition is a great hope. It’s an important competition and we want to give our all to play a good match tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Zidane. It’s a one-off match. It’s not like playing in La Liga. We’re both playing away and it’s just one match. Everything changes but our mentality, it doesn’t change.” He sounded like a man who recognises the value of winning this competition at this time.
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