“We are Atlético Madrid,” Saúl Ñíguez said on Saturday. “Each game is a final.”
And so it will be on Sunday night on the banks of the Red Sea, when Atlético will face Real Madrid for the third time since July. The controversial Supercopa produced a genuine thriller on Thursday, when Atleti advanced to the final at Barcelona’s expense after los Blancos had thrashed Valencia the previous day.
This final will be contested, of course, by two sides that did not claim domestic honors last season. Zinedine Zidane’s men finished third in 2018/19 and last won the Supercopa in 2017, while Atlético placed second and last claimed the trophy in 2014 — against Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.
“We view this match with great desire and enthusiasm, to dedicate it to our fans in Spain,” Saúl said. “We feel their love.”
Koke is out after he re-injured his hamstring on Thursday — Atlético are at full health otherwise. Jan Oblak took alternate training on Saturday after he suffered a knock in the semifinal, but he is good to go for Sunday. Jose Giménez trained normally after he was held out against Barcelona due to his own knock.
Real Madrid will not have Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard or Karim Benzema — the team’s most decisive player this season.
“I think the Supercopa comes in a great moment (for Atlético),” Diego Simeone said. “The team has made a very important ascendance after a very good month.
“There is nothing more important for Atlético fans, players, leaders and coaches than tomorrow’s match.”
Possible XI Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Giménez, Lodi; Thomas, Herrera, Correa, Saúl; Félix, Morata.
Prediction 2-1 Atlético. I said as much in my Q&A with Managing Madrid’s Kiyan Sobhani. It will be an intense, exhausting game — Atlético’s second in four days, more than 4,000 miles from home — against a team unbeaten in 15 and playing its best football of the season. But los Colchoneros are on a good run themselves, entering this match on a five-game winning streak. I think it will be a battle hotly contested in midfield, and Simeone will have to change the game once more via Vitolo.
Another hunch — Marcos Llorente will play his best minutes of the season in this match, whether he starts or comes off the bench. #RevengeGame
My record on the season 15-11
Date Jan. 12, 2020
Location King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. AST, 7:00 p.m. CET, 1:00 p.m. EST
TV/streaming options Movistar+ (Spain), Saudi Sports 1 (Saudi Arabia), ESPN Deportes (United States), DIRECTV Sports (Argentina), Startimes World Football (Ghana),