Barcelona and Real Madrid will face off in the Spanish Super Cup final on Sunday. Both sides needed a penalty shootout to get past Real Betis and Valencia, respectively. The similarities don’t stop there as neither side was convincing in either of their semifinal matches.
The important thing for both is they made the final which was their objective in the first place. Now, the only thing on their mind is winning it.
This will be the fourth Spanish Super Cup final under the new format. Real Madrid have already won it on two occasions with Athletic Bilbao taking the other. Barcelona have only reached the final once, losing it to the aforementioned Basque side.
Xavi looking to win first trophy since taking over at Barcelona
Not only does this final represent an opportunity for Barcelona to finally win it, it also presents an opportunity to win their first title since Xavi Hernandez took over as manager from Ronald Koeman a little over a year ago.
“This title would mean a lot for us, it would give us a lot of confidence,” Xavi said in his pre-match press conference. “Whatever happens we have to continue but this [winning a title] would do us a lot of good.”
Not only would could this potentially be Xavi’s first title as manager, it could potentially also be Sergio Busquets’ first as Barcelona captain.
“It is clear that it is added motivation,” Busquets said. “But we have to take it step by step. We have to do the things we know how to do and hopefully this will be my first trophy as captain.”
Easier said than done to say the least.
Xavi has a losing record as a manager against Real Madrid. In fact, his first match against Los Blancos came in the semifinal of the Spanish Super Cup final last season where they lost in extra time. He picked up his first win in the league with a 4-0 thumping at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, he lost the first Clasico earlier this season, 3-1.
El Clasico is always a special occasion but it has an added element given it is a final. Both teams will want to win it regardless of the importance it is given outside of LaLiga and the Copa del Rey.
Ousmane Dembélé and Frenkie de Jong are question marks for Xavi heading into the game. They picked up knocks in the match against Real Betis and while they should be fit for Sunday’s final, the question becomes whether or not they start. Out of the two, the Frenchman is a safer bet as Busquets is likely to start at the center of midfield alongside Gavi and Pedri.
The other question mark revolves around Ronald Araújo.
The Uruguayan was a doubt to start against Betis as Barcelona wanted to be cautious with him given he’s just come back from injury. Not only did he start the semifinal, he played the entire match including extra time.
There’s no doubt Barcelona would like to give him a rest but he is crucial to their defense and are going to field their strongest line-up against Real Madrid. However, he may not play in his usual position.
Without a solid right-back at their disposal, Xavi has used Jules Koundé in the high-profile matches. Against Real Madrid, the Catalan is considering using Araújo to try to contain Vinicius Jr. with Koundé and Andreas Christensen as the two center-backs.
With all of the first team players at his disposal, Xavi has the ability to mix and match while at the same time not disrupting too much of the team harmony on the pitch.
Barcelona are on a trophyless drought which is unacceptable given a club of their stature. Xavi knows it and knows it’s one of the reasons why he was brought in.
“At Barça, winning is non-negotiable,” Xavi said. “The objective is titles, tomorrow we are 90 or 120 minutes from winning a title and we are going to go for it. With a lot of motivation. We’re here to win. We’ll try to give the best version of ourselves to take the trophy back to Barcelona.”
Expected Starting XI:
Koundé – Araújo – Christensen – Balde
Gavi – Busquets – Pedri
Raphinha – Lewandowski – Dembélé