BARCELONA – Barcelona joined Pedri and Ferran Torres at the last minute, who were late joining the expedition of the Spanish Super Cup after testing negative in the Covid-19 test, and will also have Ansu Fati.
He has already recovered Memphis Depay and maintains the uncertainty with Ronald Araújo and Frenkie de Jong. But Xavi, and the Barça environment, know that the mission in Riyadh is monumental. It faces a Real Madrid that has won 13 of its last 15 official matches (one loss and one draw) and which it has not beaten in the last five Clásicos, losing four in a row.
Ancelotti’s team, which barely left Gareth Bale and Mariano in Madrid, traveled to Arabia with the conviction of recovering the trophy that Athletic Bilbao won last season and already won in Jeddah in January 2020.
He is pursuing his 12th Super Cup title knowing himself as a favorite and there is a feeling of being in a position to deal a new blow to the great rival, who has not known what it is to beat him since March 2019.
From the Barça point of view, doubts multiply according to the state of the players referred to. Pedri has not played since September 29, when he was injured in Lisbon, and since then he has suffered two relapses in his recovery; Ansu was injured in Vigo on November 6 and Ferran Torres played his last game, with Spain, on October 10. Although the youth squad has been training with the group since December 28, his lack of rhythm in competition is evident … As can be doubted, the physical condition of his two teammates after a week in confinement after his first positive.
Added to them are the cases of Araújo and Frenkie de Jong, injured in Linares on Wednesday of the last week and who, from the outset, were discarded for the tournament. In fact, it was understood that the Uruguayan center-back, operated on Friday for a broken hand, would be out for no less than four weeks and despite his miraculous return to training Xavi noticed his presence unlikely.
The subsequent injury of Eric García could, who knows, force this risky return of Araújo even with a splint in his hand and with the Dutch midfielder the state of the elongation in the soleus of the left leg will not be known until tomorrow.
Guessing the XI that Xavi may present at the Rey Fad Stadium is nothing short of a chimera as he faces hardly any doubts in Ancelotti. Trusting to have Dani Carvajal ready, with Lucas Vázquez in the chamber, Madrid will present an eleven as recognizable as it is reliable, where the center of the field remains indisputable with Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric and the attack presents a couple in state of grace.
Between Karim Benzema (22) and Vinícius Júnior (14) they add 36 goals this season, while Barcelona as a whole has scored 35, with Memphis Depay (8) being their top scorer … And returning from an injury that in Granada, in his first minutes after a month of absence, offered a not optimistic image.
Burdened in defense, where he gives too many concessions to rivals, Barcelona will have to pay as much attention to the majesty of Benzema as to the rebellious Vinicius, who will be presented as a real litmus test for Dani Alves and that defense that Gerard Piqué must lead, busy the coach in ensuring that the matches are not made so long for a team whose suffering in the final minutes has reached the category of torment.
The saying that a Classic is a game with an uncertain prognosis may be true … But in view of the reality and present of its two protagonists, this Saudi Arabian presents himself with an undisputed favorite, merengue.