Atletico Madrid will face local rivals Real Madrid in the final of the Spanish Super Cup in the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on Sunday evening.
The Super Cup has traditionally been played between the winners of La Liga and Copa del Rey, but with Atletico beating Barca on Thursday night and Real Madrid dispatching an unmotivated Valencia 24 hours earlier, the two sides who were invited to this season’s new-look, four-team edition are now playing for the title.
It will be the fifth final Real and Atletico have played in just over six years and if previous indications are anything to go by, it will be a close affair.
Atletico got the better of Real Madrid, 2-1 in the final of the 2013 Copa del Rey in the Santiago Bernabeu and then won the two-legged 2014 Super Cup on away goals, drawing 0-0 in the Vicente Calderon and forcing a 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu.
However, Real Madrid got their revenge in Europe by beating Atletico 4-1 after extra time in the 2014 Champions League final and winning the 2016 final on penalties in Milan. The fact those two games needed extra-time to resolve them and the 0-0 draw the two sides played out in Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium in September all adds to the feeling that once again there will be little to separate the two teams.
Atletico are at a slight disadvantage after having 24 hours less to prepare for the final and their dramatic 3-2 semifinal win against Barca was more demanding than Madrid’s comfortable 3-1 victory against Valencia.
Both semifinals showed the different tactics the teams are likely to adopt on Sunday, with Real Madrid pressing high to force an error in distribution, while Atletico are more likely to sit deep in a tightly organized 4-4-2 formation and look to play on the break with a long ball for Angel Correa, Alvaro Morata and Joao Felix to chase.
Atletico will be without Koke, who came on as a half time substitute against Barcelona, opened the scoring and suffered a relapse of his muscle injury, while Garath Bale has not recovered from a chest infection and remains on the injury list alongside Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema.
The Spanish Football Federation have been criticized for taking the tournament to Jeddah, but local fans have responded with over 40,000 seeing Real Madrid’s win over Valencia and 58,000 in the ground for Atletico’s comeback drama over Barcelona. Only a handful of seats remain for the final and local fans have clearly enjoyed the chance to see their heroes giving everything in the flesh, rather than on the TV. Enditem