Real Madrid bid to defend their trophy as they contest the Spanish Super Cup this week. They will face Messi’s Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad in a competition that features a four-team line-up for the second time.
Following the successful staging of the ‘new-look’ Supercopa de España last season, this year’s competition again features four teams.
Real Madrid and Barcelona – as first and second in the La Liga respectively – as well as the two finalists from last season’s Copa del Rey, Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, qualified for the mini-competition, which will be played this week over three stadiums in Andalusia.
The seeded draw, which prevented the teams that qualified through the same competition from playing against each other, saw Real Sociedad drawn against Barcelona, while Real face Athletic.
Under normal circumstances, Real and Barcelona would be expected to advance to Sunday’s final in the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville. But these are – of course – not normal times. Games are mostly played in empty stadiums and results have not gone as expected.
Barcelona, for example, have lost to ‘minnows’ like Cadiz and Getafe, while Real were also beaten by Cadiz and Alavés.
Ronald Koeman’s team go into Wednesday’s match in the Estadio El Arcángel in Córdoba on the back of an impressive eight-match unbeaten streak that has seen them climb to third in the league and win their last three La Liga matches, all of them on the road.
Despite Barça being four points behind Atlético Madrid and having played three games less, Ronald Koeman can take some comfort ahead of the match against Sociedad from the fact that Captain Lionel Messi has found his form.
His two goals in Saturday’s 4-0 victory against Granada has taken the majestical midfielder to 11 goals for the season and he has managed to inspire some of the younger players like Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele.
The Dutch coach is, however, sweating over the availability of young defender Ronald Araujo, who injured himself during warm-up for the game against Granada.
The 21-year-old Uruguayan has become a regular since recovering from a thigh injury earlier in the season.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the club said that tests carried out have shown that Araujo has a right hamstring strain. “His recovery will determine his availability for the coming training sessions."
Despite being second in the league – three points ahead of Barcelona - Real Madrid bring a much less impressive form into Thursday’s semi-final against Bilbao in the Estadio La Rosaleda in Málaga.
In their last three matches, they drew away to Elche and Osasuna and beat Celta Vigo at home.
Coach Zinedine Zidane was disappointed with Saturday’s goalless draw at Osasuna. The game was played in very difficult conditions after the sudden extreme winter conditions, prompting Zidane to say: “We have to put up with it, forget it and think about Thursday's match."
Real are the defending champions, having won the competition in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last year – the first time the tournament was held with four clubs. The club from the capital are also the record holders with 11 wins.
Ghanaian football fans will be able to see whether Los Blancos can make it 12 Supercopa wins as the games will be shown live and in HD on the StarTimes sports channels as Africa’s leading digital-TV operator secured the broadcasting rights for this exciting competition.