Barcelona is looking to make up for its faltering season on all fronts, both domestically and in Europe, when it faces historical rivals Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup in football, at King Fahd International Stadium in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Wednesday.
The Catalan team enters the confrontation realizing Real Madrid’s clear superiority this season, as it occupies sixth place in the “La Liga” standings, 17 points behind the leaders Real, with a match less for “Blaugrana”.
Also, coach Xavi Hernandez’s team left the Champions League from the group stage for the first time in nearly twenty years, and therefore its focus will be on avoiding leaving empty-handed from a new competition.
The last confrontation between the two sides, and the first since the departure of Argentine star Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, ended with Real’s 2-1 victory at Camp Nou last October. Since 2010, the two teams have met 40 times, Barcelona won 16 times, compared to 14 for Real, in addition to ten draws.
Barcelona won the Super Cup 13 times (a record), the last of which was in 2018, compared to 11 for the royal team.
Real Madrid is the most likely to win the match on Wednesday, in the competition held for the second time in Saudi Arabia after the 2019 edition, which Real won at the expense of its neighbor Atletico 4-1 on penalties, provided that Saudi Arabia will continue to host the competition until 2029.
Real is heading steadily towards winning the local league title, led by the “glowing” French attacking duo, Karim Benzema and the young Brazilian, Vinicius Junior, who scored two goals alone, less than the entire Barcelona squad.
Although Real is far ahead of its traditional rivals, the gap does not necessarily mean that Meringue has improved over the past, but rather reflects Barcelona’s decline in the recent period significantly.
The Catalan giant suffers from debts amounting to about one billion euros, which led to a sharp decline in the level of the team after the departure of some stars in the last two years, led by Messi and Uruguayan Luis Soares.
The new Barcelona coach, Xavi Hernandez, hopes that his team will take advantage of some of the improvement in their performance in the recent period, with the aim of stopping Real’s string of victories in the Clasico matches, which amounted to 4 in a row.
The Catalan team did not lose in the last six matches, and advanced to sixth place, and it would have been able to advance more to fourth place in the last stage, had it not been for a dramatic draw in the last moments against its host Granada 1-1.
Barcelona is armed with a first expected participation of striker Ferran Torres, who moved from Manchester City during the winter transfers, and who is now able to participate after renewing the contract of Frenchman Samuel Umtiti, in a move that gave him financial space to register the first. Torres has also recovered from his infection with the Corona virus, in addition to the return of Pedri and Ansu Fati, who have been absent since November.
Barcelona’s victory in the match would be a big surprise, as Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti did not hide his team’s advantage in the confrontation when he said: Theoretically, we are the luckiest. But there is something theoretical and what may happen on the ground.
On the other hand, Barcelona’s veteran defender Gerard Pique believes that his team is very motivated to lift the title. This is the semi-final, the Clasico, and it will be difficult. But we are improving and I am optimistic that we will be able to compete and reach the final.
Real enters the confrontation after its strong showing at the end of last week by beating Valencia 4-1 thanks to two goals from Benzema and Vinicius.
It is worth noting that the winner of this match will face the winner of the final between defending champion Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid, who will meet on Thursday.