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The first major trophy of the 2020/21 season is up for grabs on Sunday (9.00pm CET), as FC Barcelona and Athletic Club go head-to-head in the Spanish Super Cup Final, the second of three meetings between the teams in just 25 days.
How they got here
This year is just the second under the new format, which not only includes the winners of the previous season’s league and cup, but also the runners-up in those competitions – although because of Covid-19, the Copa del Rey Final between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad has not actually been played yet.
Barça beat Real Sociedad in a gripping semi-final on Wednesday in Cordoba, featuring all kinds of heroics from goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and eventually decided in a penalty shootout, with Riqui Puig delivering the definitive blow to send the Catalans into the final.
The second semi, played in Malaga the day after, saw Athletic Club defeat Real Madrid 2-1, with both goals scored by Raúl García.
Barça and Athletic in the Super Cup
Barça have won the trophy more times than any club (13, with Real Madrid second on 11). The Catalans have also participated more than anyone else (24 times, with Real Madrid second on 16).
Barça’s most recent victory was in 2018, beating Sevilla 2-1 in the first edition to be played on foreign soil (Tangier, Morocco). They lost 3-2 to Atlético Madrid in last season’s semi-final.
Leo Messi is the top goalscorer in the history of the competition with 14 goals, twice as many as Raul of Real Madrid, who is second with 7 goals.
Athletic have won the title twice, once in 1984 (when they won the trophy automatically as double winners) and once in 2015, beating Barça 5-1 on aggregate.
On the other two occasions when the two sides have met, Barça were victorious (3-2 on aggregate in 1983 and 5-1 on aggregate in 2009).
La Cartuja is the 60,000 capacity stadium built to host the 1999 World Championships in Athletics and to support Seville's bid to host Olympics Games. It's the sixth largest stadium in Spain, but is not used by either of the city's big teams, Sevilla and Betis.
It has hosted Copa del Rey Finals in the past, is sometimes used as a venue for Spain's international games, and has also hosted two Davis Cup finals in tennis and concerts by such major acts as U2, Madonna, AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen.
Howver, this will be the first time Barça have ever graced the venue
Barça’s season didn’t get off to the best of starts, but the recent improvement in form has been spectacular. In La Liga, they’re unbeaten in eight games and started 2021 with three straight wins, all away from home, to fly up to third in the table. The confidence is already flowing back, but a trophy would be the icing on the cake going into the business end of the season.
Athletic meanwhile, have been having an erratic season, they've been winning games but not once have they managed two in a row. They’re just about in the top half of the league table in ninth place.
The official match has yet to be announced but the full squad has travelled for the game apart from Gerard Piqué and Philippe Coutinho, who are continuing their recovery programmes in Barcelona. Iñaki Peña, Ilaix Moriba, Oscar Mingueza and Konrad de la Fuente of Barça B have also joined the travelling party.
Last five meetings
06/01/21 (LIGA) Athletic 2 FC Barcelona 3 (Pedri, Messi 2)
23/06/20 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 1 (Rakitic) Athletic 0
06/02/20 (COPA) Athletic 1 FC Barcelona 0
16/08/19 (LIGA) Athletic 1 FC Barcelona 0
10/02/19 (LIGA) Athletic 0-0 FC Barcelona
What they’re saying
"We know it’s not the most important title of the ones we’re playing for, but it’s a trophy and winning trophies shows that we doing things right and that people can trust our plans. I don’t need to motivate anyone. It’s a final and everyone wants to play, and I’d rather they feel at ease rather than under pressure.”
"Real Madrid getting knocked out is a reminder that anything can happen. Football is like that when you fight hard. You can’t sit back because the opposition will punish you. Athletic took their chances and deserved to qualify.”
“Leo Messi trained alone yesterday and we’ll see how he gets on today. He has the final word. Nobody knows his body better than he does.”
"We’re very excited about the chance to win the first trophy. It wasn’t an easy start to the season but the team is improving all the time.”
"We’ve been more concerned about the trip and training than anything else. Now we’re focused on the final. We’re totally focused and will be until the game tomorrow night.”
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