Spanish Super Cup: Can Xavi clinch 1st trophy as Barca boss? – ESPN

Shaka Hislop says LaLiga leader Javier Tebas “has to do higher” after his reaction to Vinícius Junior receiving racist name callings all over Actual Madrid’s 2-0 win at Valladolid. (1:34)
It is January, because of this it is now time for the Spanish Supercopa to take centre-stage with 4 of the most efficient groups in LaLiga doing struggle for the prize, based in 1982. This yr, we have now were given the 2 largest groups in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona, in addition to Copa del Rey winners Real Betis and the cup runners-up, Valencia, within the combine.
However how does this event paintings? How do the 4 groups glance heading into the motion? What are one of the most memorable moments of Supercopas previous, and will this quartet ship some contemporary drama and magic of their very own?
ESPN’s Sam Marsden and Alex Kirkland ruin all of it down and get you able for the motion, which starts on Wednesday and concludes with Sunday’s ultimate in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
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It was once the standard curtain-raiser to the brand new season, pitting the LaLiga champions towards the Copa del Rey winners. However after a revamp in 2020 it’s now a four-team festival that takes position in January every yr. So now, as an alternative of 2 groups sweating it out over two video games (domestic and away) in August, there are 4 groups vying for the trophy in Saudi Arabia this January.
Qualification for the event is discreet. The highest two in LaLiga the former season and the 2 Copa del Rey finalists make the ultimate 4. If the similar groups end within the best two and achieve the Copa ultimate, the numbers are made up by way of the groups completing 1/3 and doubtlessly even fourth in LaLiga. It was once simple this yr: Actual Madrid and Barcelona certified as the highest two within the league, with Copa winners Actual Betis and runners-up Valencia becoming a member of them.
Then again, the draw has now not all the time been so easy. The semifinals had been made up our minds in quite a lot of techniques, from an open draw twelve months to making sure league and cup winners have shyed away from every different the following. The theory was once steadily to take a look at and arrange a Clasico ultimate, however there is now a transparent framework in position: LaLiga winners (Madrid) vs. Copa runners-up (Valencia) (LIVE Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.), and Copa winners (Betis) vs. LaLiga runners-up (Barca) (LIVE Thursday, 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.). — Marsden
Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales’ need to spice up Supercopa earnings required a transformation in location, too. The removing of the two-legged, home-and-away layout intended the rest was once conceivable, and in 2018 the Supercopa was once performed out of the country for the primary time, Barcelona beating Sevilla 2-1 in a one-off sport held in Tangier, Morocco. Sevilla’s protests — that they had already promised a house leg to fanatics as a part of their season price ticket bundle — had been omitted.
The Morocco transfer was once only a trial run. In September 2019, the RFEF signed a six-year care for Saudi Arabia value €40 million in line with season. It later emerged that Gerard Pique‘s corporate Kosmos had performed a key position, in go back for a ten% fee.
“We’ve got excellent hyperlinks with the Heart East,” Pique said last April. “They sought after to take soccer competitions there and we spoke with Rubiales to look if he may well be inquisitive about taking the Supercopa … Saudi Arabia wasn’t the one [option], we spoke with Miami, [the RFEF] had an be offering from Qatar.”
The primary “Ultimate 4” Supercopa came about in Jeddah in January 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic then pressured a transformation of plans, with the 2021 event coming domestic to Andalusia, sooner than returning to Saudi Arabia — this time in Riyadh — for 2022. The transfer has drawn well-liked complaint, with issues over human rights and a loss of gender equality, however there aren’t any plans for a reconsider. The RFEF has since prolonged the preliminary six-year settlement till 2029.
“We took the verdict, it is signed till 2029, we will be able to’t stay wondering it,” a combative Rubiales instructed the RFEF common meeting in December. “If there are embassies, bilateral relationships and different companies there, why can not soccer cross? We are doing certain paintings [in Saudi Arabia]. There is now a girls’s league… We will both flip our backs on a whole society or attempt to display that issues can exchange.” — Kirkland
Barcelona supervisor Xavi Hernandez mentioned that the workforce’s hard-fought 1-0 win at Atletico Madrid on Sunday within the league was once value “greater than 3 issues” and it sends them off to Saudi Arabia with a “huge morale spice up.” Barca are nonetheless a workforce below building, however that victory took them 3 issues transparent of Madrid on the best of the desk after 16 video games.
It was once a lot wanted as a result of Barca had returned from the Global Cup ruin in sluggish movement. They had been held at domestic by way of Espanyol of their first sport again and wanted additional time to overcome third-division facet Intercity within the cup in midweek. The win over Atletico, which was once now not lovely now and then, offers them the conclusion that they are able to win unpleasant, and they are able to compete towards Europe’s best possible. That they had misplaced their ultimate two visits to the Estadio Metropolitano with out scoring.
They now want to raise that momentum into the Supercopa, the place Xavi has the danger to win a primary trophy since changing Ronald Koeman as trainer ultimate November. The contest isn’t top up their listing of priorities however successful it will supply a platform and trust for additional luck in LaLiga, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League. Failure, relying at the context, may just convey the highlight again directly to Xavi, who fell brief within the Supercopa, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League ultimate season.
Barca must be at complete power within the Heart East. Robert Lewandowski is recently serving a three-game ban in LaLiga however he’s to be had to play the Supercopa. An enforced relaxation within the league may just receive advantages him towards Betis on Thursday and his targets — he has 18 in all competitions this season — may well be the adaptation between the 4 groups. — Marsden
Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Villarreal was once the 1/3 time in 5 LaLiga video games that Actual Madrid have dropped issues, a run stretching again to the top of October, sooner than the Global Cup ruin. Their best different sport this month was once a laboured 1-0 Copa del Rey win over fourth-tier Cacereno. It isn’t precisely inspiring shape, and there will be no let-up anytime quickly. This Supercopa commute is the most recent step in a frightening New Yr fixture listing which contains every other seek advice from to Villarreal subsequent week within the Copa, tricky league video games with Athletic Club and Real Sociedad, and subsequent month’s Membership Global Cup.

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SATURDAY, JAN. 14 (all instances ET)
Reading vs. Queens Park Rangers (10 a.m.)
Osasuna vs. Mallorca (12:30 p.m.)
Ajax vs. Twente (3 p.m.)
Real Sociedad vs. Athletic Bilbao (3 p.m.)
SUNDAY, JAN. 15 (all instances ET)
Club Brugge vs. Anderlecht (7:30 a.m.)
PSV Eindhoven vs. Fortuna (8:30 a.m.)
Almeria vs. Atletico Madrid (10 a.m.)
Barcelona vs. Real Betis (2:30 p.m.)
Club Tijuana vs. Cruz Azul (10 p.m.)
There are worries in defence — trainer Carlo Ancelotti criticized the protecting towards Villarreal, announcing “the workforce wasn’t compact” with the defence and midfield “too open.” Left-back Ferland Mendy was once at fault for Villarreal’s opener, giving the ball away. Proper-back Dani Carvajal hasn’t been are compatible and now David Alaba has a calf harm, resolving doubts over which of Alaba, Eder Militao or Antonio Rudiger get started at centre-back. In midfield, the inconsistent Aurelien Tchouameni is out with every other calf downside, whilst Eduardo Camavinga continues to be best possible deployed as an full of life have an effect on replace.
There aren’t any issues over Vinicius Junior or Rodrygo Goes in assault — Rodrygo’s overdue solo target stored Madrid from additional time towards Cacereno — however major guy Karim Benzema hasn’t but hit best shape. His goal-scoring figures are cast, with 8 targets in 9 LaLiga appearances this season, however 3 of the ones had been consequences and in build-up play he is seemed a degree underneath his fluid, easy best possible. Madrid’s possibilities in Saudi Arabia rely on that converting rapid. — Kirkland
Betis are in a significantly better position than Valencia. A 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday lifted them into the Champions League puts in LaLiga. Manuel Pellegrini is doing a positive task in Seville. After main Betis to a trophy by way of successful the Copa del Rey ultimate season, your next step for the Chilean trainer is to complete within the best 4. They have got a squad filled with ability. Sergio Canales and Nabil Fekir are amusing to observe, even though they have got been setback this week by way of the lack of Alex Moreno, with resources confirming to ESPN the left-back is just about finishing a €15m transfer to Aston Villa.
Issues aren’t going so smartly for Valencia, regardless of the early season promise proven below Italian trainer Gennaro Gattuso. Again-to-back defeats have noticed them slip out of the highest 10. Friday evening’s opposite at domestic to Cadiz was once specifically painful. They continue to be a risk to Madrid on Wednesday, although. Veteran striker Edinson Cavani has proven indicators of coming to existence in contemporary weeks and they have got a skilled crop of younger midfielders coming thru, together with United States global Yunus Musah.
What each Betis and Valencia have proven in recent times is that they are able to compete with Barca and Madrid. Barca wanted a overdue Lewandowski target to overcome Valencia at Mestalla this season, whilst Madrid best simply edged out Betis at domestic. You best have to show to ultimate season, too, to search out Valencia beating Madrid 4-1 and Betis improving Xavi’s Barca at Camp Nou. And also you best have to return to 2021 to search out the ultimate non-Clasico winner of the Supercopa, when Athletic Membership beat Madrid and Barca to boost the trophy. — Marsden
Barcelona are the Supercopa workforce to overcome, having received the contest 13 instances to Actual Madrid’s 12 because the event was once created in 1982. Their document from 2009 till 2018, successful six Supercopas in a decade, displays their home dominance at the moment, kicked off by way of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering 2009 antique. However a notable energy shift got here in 2017 when Madrid received the Supercopa by way of beating Barcelona 5-1 on combination, with a 3-1 win at Camp Nou adopted by way of a 2-0 victory on the Bernabeu. It was once after that 2nd leg that then-Barca defender Pique famously admitted that he “felt not as good as Madrid for the primary time in 9 years.”
The 2020 ultimate — the primary within the “Ultimate 4” layout — is best possible remembered for Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde‘s impressive, match-saving skilled foul on Alvaro Morata. Atletico Madrid ahead Morata was once thru on target within the one hundred and fifteenth minute — the sport had completed 0-0 after commonplace time — and one-on-one with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois when Valverde sprinted again to hack him down, incomes a crimson card however maintaining Madrid’s blank sheet. The Uruguayan even gained a pat at the again of the top from Atletico trainer Diego Simeone — possibly recognising a kindred spirit — on his means off. Madrid went directly to win on consequences.
In 2021, Athletic Membership pulled off back-to-back upsets, knocking out Madrid sooner than beating Barcelona 3-2 with a dramatic finale, turning round a 2-1 deficit with added time targets from Asier Villalibre and Inaki Williams. And ultimate yr’s semifinal was once an epic Clasico all-timer. Madrid led Barca two times thru Vinicius and Benzema, best to be pegged again by way of Luuk de Jong and Ansu Fati, sooner than Valverde was once as soon as once more the hero with an extra-time winner. — Kirkland


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