Xavi ‘very happy to be in Saudi Arabia’ as Barcelona aim to retain Spanish Super Cup in another El Clasico

Carlo Ancelotti excited as ‘whole world’ set to watch Spanish Super Cup final in Riyadh

RIYADH: Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti says that the club have thoroughly enjoyed their time in “football-loving Saudi Arabia” — and anticipates Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup 2024 final in Riyadh versus Barcelona being watched across the globe.

The El Clasico final takes place at Al-Nassr’s Al-Awwal Park in Riyadh — the home of former Real Madrid hero Cristiano Ronaldo — on Sunday, Jan. 14, at 10 p.m. Saudi time.

Real Madrid booked their place in this year’s Spanish Super Cup final by defeating city rivals Atletico Madrid 5-3 in Wednesday’s semifinal in the Saudi Arabian capital city.

Speaking at the pre-final press conference, Ancelotti said: “Saudi Arabia is a football-loving country and we have thoroughly enjoyed it here. The atmosphere from the fans will be important. The El Clasico match is important, and the whole world is watching it. There are nerves, but we are excited about the match, and there will be a great physical effort from the players.

“We trained excellently, the team is ready, and we are prepared for this match in a big way, and we are excited for the final.

“We have played against Barcelona many times and we have a lot of experience and know that they have a distinguished midfield and work well.”

Real Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal netted the all-important third equalising goal with minutes remaining against Atletico Madrid that took the semifinal to extra time. His performance was also rewarded with the man of the match prize.

Ancelotti said: “Carvajal is in good condition. He rested and trained excellently, and I think he will participate tomorrow.”

Extra time was decided in Real Madrid’s favor against their city rivals through the help of the considerable impact of substitutes Joselu and Brahim Diaz. Joselu pressurised Atletico defender Stefan Savic into an own goal, while Diaz ran from his own half to score the fifth goal.

“Substitutes are important and influential players if requested, and this depends on the situations and circumstances of the match,” Ancelotti said. “As you can see in Vinicius’ case, we replaced him because of the minor condition that happened to him, and we have a fully equipped reserve bench, and they have high experience and skills.”

Confirming Kepa Arrizabalaga will be in goal for the El Clasico final, Ancelotti said: “Kepa played an important match against Atletico and deserved to participate with us and deserves to start tomorrow.”

He added: “We used a defensive strategy against Atletico Madrid, and this is the way Atletico plays, and depending on the direction of the opposing team, there will be changes to our style.”

Barcelona earned their place in the final by defeating Osasuna 2-0 on Thursday night at Al-Awwal Park through goals from Robert Lewandoski and Lamine Yamal to set up the El Clasico Spanish Super Cup final in Riyadh.

This is the second year running that the two have met in the final in the Saudi Arabian capital city. Last year, Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-1 in the fourth time that the Spanish Super Cup has been played in Saudi Arabia. In 2020, Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid on penalties in Jeddah, and won the trophy again two years later by beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in Riyadh.