As another El Clasico is upon us, Barcelona will take on Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup. This game is scheduled to take place at the King Fadh Stadium situated in Saudi Arabia. It has been three months since Real Madrid took on Barcelona at Camp Nou on 24th October in la Liga.
What is extremely exciting about this match is the fact that is the first-ever EL Classico for the Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez since his return. Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti’s man has been performing extremely well in La Liga this season with occupying the top spot in the league. They also won the last time when these 2 teams meet. But when it comes to EL Classico form doesn’t matter. Both the teams look to win the match and give their everything to get a spot in the finals of the Super Cup and get their first trophy on their hands this season.
Venue- King Fahd Stadium, Saudi Arabia
Time- 1:30 Pm IST
SEMIFINAL 1- FC BARCELONA VS REAL MADRID
The Los Blancos are in a terrific run of form this year in La Liga as well as in other competitions. Carlo Ancelotti is really doing a fascinating job with the team and it remains to be seen whether he lands any trophy at the Bernabeu this year or not. Last weekend against Valencia, Madrid was on a roll as they hammered the Bats for four and conceded only one. Vinicius was back on the field after a two-week absence as was the Croatian wizard, Luka Modric. A Benzema brace coupled with Vini’s double summed up a perfect night for the Blancos at the Bernabeu.
To be precise, this Madrid team looks deadly with the combination of Vini-Benzema up front and the midfield trio of Kroos-Casemiro-Modric. Backing it up is the duo of Militao-Alaba in defense who have provided immense stability at the back this season. In the last five matches across all competitions, Madrid has won three and lost one. They are only losing points against low-block teams and it’s a cause of concern for Don Carlo. He needs to improve the squad to be able to cope up with defensively compact teams. No wonder that Madrid will rectify all its flaws ahead of the showdown with Barcelona in Riyadh. It will be the first chance for Ancelotti to bring in a big trophy at Madrid after 2020.
Carlo Ancelotti has come up with some excellent tactics this season which has been so much decisive for the Blancos. Nevertheless, he has brought a much-needed transformation to the team which was needed after the departure of Zidane. More importantly, he has made Vinicius a beast this season. All this has been possible due to his reasonable decision-making. He has allowed Vinicius the freedom to roam around freely and take a much wider space in the left-flank. Due to this, Vini has been able to play his natural game utilizing the free spaces on the left as well as cutting inside smoothly. Benzema has also developed much due to his freedom to build up play from the deep as well as score goals upfront. Ancelotti usually deploys a 4-3-3 in which the role of Kroos becomes vital.
He drops right back in the defense and from there acts as a ball-carrier and creator who starts the attacks. He capitalizes on the second balls cleared out by defense as well. Casemiro does the most part of the blocking down the middle plays assisted well by Militao and Alaba. Mendy also plays a crucial role as he creates the space in the left for Vinicius upfront and neutralizes attacks. Modric creates the channels through which the through-balls or counter-attacks take shape. The right-winger plays the role of an inside-out forward with Benzema drifting towards the left. It makes it hard for defenders to mark and they quickly enter the unmarked areas. To sum up, Madrid creates the play right from the back and everyone does drop to take up those balls.
Against Barcelona, we will see a similar kind of play from the Whites. They would go all out to enter their first final of the season.
After a long time, Madrid has a near full squad available for the game. Only Gareth Bale and Mariano Diaz didn’t travel to Saudi Arabia with the squad. Mariano has a slight muscle and hamstring discomfort while Bale remains out due to ankle problems. It remains as to whether Carlo fields Carvajal in the right-back position, who had been out for a month. There would be a likely tossup between Asensio and Rodrygo for the Right-wing position.
HEAD TO HEAD
The world has witnessed 247 El Classicos to date. Real Madrid holds a very slight advantage in it with 99 wins out of the total played. Barca has registered 96 wins and 52 games have ended in a stalemate.
The last time these two sides met for a Supercopa match, Madrid thrashed the Catalan giants with a margin of 3-1. In the recent La Liga clash in October, Madrid snatched a comfortable win courtesy of goals from Alaba and Vazquez. It will be seen who emerges victorious in the 248th meeting between these two sides.
This season has been terrible for the Catalan giants in terms of both injuries and results. Injuries have been lurking around the squad with recently some players testing positive for covid – 19. The new appointment of Xavi has sparked a new light of hope and spark in the dressing room. The team is now showing good promising signs and also scoring goals after a struggling start to the season. They got knocked out of the champions league in the group stages and will be playing in the Europa League. It is quite clear that it has been a shocking season for both players and also for the Barca fans. But even after so many injuries the team has been fighting and winning matches. With a tight and hectic schedule coming up, the club has to win trophies and also look after the fitness of the players.
After a win over Mallorca away from home, the squad has struggled at the Estadio Los Carmenes playing against Granada. The match ended in a 1-1 score as former Sevilla Striker Luuk De jong scored a late equalizer. He has been in amazing form in the new year 2022 of late. There are youngsters like Pedri, Gavi, Nico, Ansu Fati, Araujo, Abde, Eric showing fighting spirit which shows the club has a good future ahead. The club has also signed Ferran Torres and former Barca player Dani Alves as reinforcements in January.
Recently Xavi has been changing his tactical plans and setting up to different formations at different times. Usually, he goes with a 4-3-3 classical or 3-4-3 to be more defensively well structured. But the latest injuries to Araujo and Frankie De jong might urge him to go back with his 4-3-3. Pique and Lenglet will be the center-backs. But if everything goes well for the Uruguayan Ronald Araujo, then we might see him as a third center-back. He will do the job of man-marking Vinicius Junior who has been in terrific form this season besides Benzema.
And stopping both of them will be a priority for Barca. Meanwhile, there will be changes as Fati along with Dembele will come in both the wings in the starting XI. Any one of the three of Luuk De Jong, Ferran Jutgla, or Memphis Depay will play as center-forward. The choice for center back and Centre forward will be crucial and will decide the outcome of the match.
Ansu Fati – Still doubt but is training with the squad to play the El Clasico.
Frankie De Jong- Soleus Injury Medical Clearance received
Ronald Araujo- Right fractured hand. Might play but still in doubt
Eric Garcia- Distal Injury in the right thigh and will be out for 5 weeks.
Sergi Roberto- Injured
Martin Brathwaite- Injured
Ferran Torres- cleared medically but did not start
Pedri – cleared medically but not start
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
The Brazilian is enjoying his form of life in his redemption season at the Bernabeu. Such has been his phenomenal performance, that he’s the only Madrid player to start all of the games without being rested. He is tearing down opponents with his pace, dribbling qualities, on-spot awareness, and play-making as well as creating a play from the back. No wonder that he is one of Ancelotti’s most trusted men in any big game. His 14 goals and 7 assists across 24 starts are one of the most high-rated performances across Europe. Against Barcelona too, he’ll be eager to make his presence felt as he vows to light up the left flank.
Another Brazilian, Eder Militao, has turned out to be the next star-man in defense for the Madrid giants. Since the start of the season, he has aptly filled up the void left over by Varane at the club. To be specific, he is one of the main reasons why Madrid is so defensively sound at the back. His aerial prowess, tackling aptness, man-marking ability as well as helping the team to build up from the back is what a coach needs from his trusted center-back. His long-range passing abilities are also impressive. The fact that he puts out his body in the line of the ball whatsoever is one of his most unique traits of him. Ancelotti will need a much-spirited performance from the Brazilian to counter the threat of the Barcelona attackers.
The 38-year old Brazilian has finally returned to his dream club and has been rock solid in his first two matches. He is defensively well positioned and also offensively dangerous. Alves can play both as a midfielder and also as a full back. Such a versatile player will always be a great advantage for Xavi. He’s got an assist in the match against Granada and also is known for his set-piece deliveries along with pinpoint accurate crosses. He will definitely have a key role in the team both as a senior and also to keep an eye on Vinicius Junior’s threat. His vast experience of playing el Clasico will be a huge advantage for Barca.
LUUK DE JONG
Currently the top scorer for Barca in the new year as he scored in back-to-back matches. His headers proved out to be match-winners against Mallorca and almost against Granada. His presence in the middle of the park along with his headers will be a threat to the real defense. The crosses and set pieces will be an important way for Luuk De Jong to score upfront.
For the first Clasico of the year, usual enticements are going up around to see these two teams playing against each other for the first time in 2022. To be honest, this clash always lives up to its epithet of producing entertaining gameplay and bringing out end-to-end action from both sides. RealMadrid would want to progress on their way to their first-ever trophy of the Carlo-era by thrashing the Catalans. The Blaugranas, too, would be looking to play as party spoilers and have a chance at their first silverware under Xavi. Expect a fierce encounter to unfold in Saudi Arabia that is sure to bring up a captivating display of elegant football from both sides after it’s an EL Classico.
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