PREVIEW | Real Madrid v FC Barcelona

PREVIEW | Real Madrid v FC Barcelona

Riyadh is the venue for the the defence of the Spanish Super Cup in Sunday's grand final, which doubles as a Clásico...

All eyes are on Riyadh this weekend. And that's not just because it is hosting the start of the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally this Sunday. Once the cars, bikes and trucks have rumbled off into the desert, there is something else happening in the Saudi Arabian capital. It's the final of the Spanish Super Cup. And if that wasn't enough, it's also a Clásico. The two halves of the biggest rivalry in club football are set to meet at 10pm local time, 8pm CET, at the 25,000 capacity KSU Stadium (also known as Al-Awwal Park) in a game that will bring the football world to a standstill.

How they got here

Barça earned their ticket to the final on Thursday night, with Robert Lewandowski finally breaking down Osasuna's solid defending on 59 minutes, although the win was never certain until Lamine Yamal, the youngest player ever to appear in this competition, converted the second three minutes into second half injury time.


The day before, Real Madrid had seen off city rivals Atlético in an absolute humdinger of a match. The red-and-whites looked to have secured things when Antonio Rüdiger put the ball in his own net with just 12 minutes to go. But Dani Carvajal sent the game into extra time, and the all-whites eventually won through 5-3.

It means that for the first time since the four-team format was introduced in 2020, the final will be contested by the respective champions of the league (Barça) and cup (Madrid). Curiously, the four previous editions were all eventually won by teams that had not won either of the major domestic trophies the year before, something that will not be happening this year.

Super Cup history

Barça are the team with the most Super Cup titles (14) since the tournament first appeared in 1982, and they are also the defending champions. Many comparisons have been made with the game 12 months ago, also contested in Riyadh, but at the King Fahd Stadium. That day, Barça produced one of their finest performances in recent memory to win 3-1. Gavi, Lewandowski and Pedri scored the goals, and Karim Benzema's late response was scant consolation for a thoroughly outclassed Madrid

Although Barça were top of the league at the time, they had crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage and several questions were being asked of Xavi and his players. That display in Saudi Arabia sent out a message to the world. Barça were still still in business, and they went on to win the Liga title at a canter.

This season, the Champions League is going fine, but a worrying gap has opened up between Barça and leaders Madrid and Girona. It's by no means an unassailable difference, and a Super Cup victory over Madrid, big as it would be itself, would also be the perfect boost for Barça's morale on other fronts.

On the negative side, of the 16 previous occasions when Barça have met Madrid in a major final, they have only won six. Eight of those games were in the Spanish Super Cup, where the series is currently a disappointing Barça 2 Real Madrid 4. Barça's first win over their biggest rivals in this event was in 2011, back in the days when the competition was played by two teams over two legs. The second, of course, was the 3-1 win win last year. More of that would do very nicely indeed. 

Head to head

Last five meetings
28/10/23 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
05/04/23 (COPA) FC Barcelona 0-4 Real Madrid
19/03/23 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
02/03/23 (COPA) Real Madrid 0-1 FC Barcelona
15/01/23 (SUPER CUP) Real Madrid 1-3 FC Barcelona


Since last year's Super Cup showdown, the teams have played each other in four competitive matches (and also in a summer friendly in the USA). Three of those came in the space of little more than a month. The two sides were drawn together in the Copa del Rey semi-final, where Barça got off to a fabulous start by winning the first leg at the Bernabeu thanks to a Militão own goal. And three weeks later, a 2-1 win at Spotify Camp Nou as good as put paid to any remote chance Real Madrid had of catching the Catalans in the league.

But the two most recent encounters have not been good for blaugrana interests. Their Copa del Rey lead was obliterated when Madrid won 4-0 at Spotify Camp Nou in the second leg, and the first Liga meeting of 2023-24 brought the first ever defeat for Barça at their temporary home on Montjuic. The winner that day was scored by the madridista that everyone has been talking about this season, Jude Bellingham, who is sure to be a threat once again this Sunday.

Real Madrid form guide

It has to be said that Real Madrid have been in exceptional form this season, in which their only competitive loss so far has been the 3-1 defeat in the league derby with Atlético. They're currently top of the league table, although that is likely to change this weekend, with Girona facing the winless Almeria at 2pm CET on Sunday.

And in the Champions League they advanced from a group shared with Napoli, Braga and Union Berlin without dropping a single point. All in all, they haven't lost for 20 competitive games. That could change on Sunday, but it sure ain't going to to be easy...

Team news

FC Barcelona are without Ter Stegen, Marcos Alonso and Gavi, who all stayed behind in Barcelona. Meanwhile, Iñigo Martínez, João Cancelo and Pedri all travelled without being declared fully fit but in the hope that they'd eventually be OK to play. That was certainly the case with the Canary Islander, who came on for the last 30 minutes against Osasuna and looked as sharp, if not sharper, than ever. But there have been no announcements regarding the other two, and to make matters worse, Raphinha left the field on Thursday with a thigh injury, and he too is now unavailable for the final.

Barça have injury woes, but Carlo Ancelotti has troubles of his own to worry about. Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militão, David Alaba and Lucas Vázquez are all out of action.

What they're saying

Speaking ahead of the game, coach Xavi Hernández said "the team is motivated. It's the perfect situation for a player, to impose our way of playing, the DNA that links us back to Cruyff. We have the example from last season: we are proud of that day. That's the path we are always looking for. Dominate possession, create chances through numerical superiority and triangles. When kick off comes, the final will be 50-50."


Captain Sergi Roberto also gave a press conference, saying "after being at the club since I was 14, I'm especially excited about tomorrow because it's my first chance to win a title as first captain. But a Clásico is always a big leveller. There is so much rivalry and Madrid are a very strong team, so we'll need to give it 100% in every aspect, and also be very aware of what Madrid are able to do on the counter attack."


Força Barça
Força Barça

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