“Here’s the man with teeth like God’s shoeshine/He sparkles, shimmers, shines/Let’s all have another Orange Julius/Thick syrup standing in lines.” — Modest Mouse
The Supercopa de España is back with a vengeance, and its new format has been a lightning rod for criticism. The field expanded from two teams to four — each playing a semifinal before a final on Sunday — and the Spanish football federation moved the competition from Spain to Saudi Arabia.
Though traveling to Jeddah from Madrid on a nonstop flight is not prohibitive, it has been argued that holding the new Supercopa on another continent, in the middle of the domestic season, inconveniences and possibly harms the clubs involved. The financial windfall from contesting three games in the Middle East is of great interest to RFEF and cannot be overlooked. It’s already been confirmed that Atlético Madrid’s semifinal game against Barcelona will be sold out — though Atlético have sold just 50 tickets to the match.
Regardless, last year’s top two will meet for the second time in five weeks with a trophy — however minor — on the line. Atlético touch down in Jeddah in good form and have not lost since that Dec. 1 battle with Barça, while the Catalans blew a late lead and drew at Espanyol on Saturday. Diego Simeone has worked with a strong lineup in training over the past few days and included Koke (muscular injury) in his squad. Stefan Savić(!), Šime Vrsaljko(!!!) and a few select canteranos also are on the flight to the Arabian Peninsula.
Possible XI Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Giménez, Lodi; Thomas, Saúl, Correa, Koke; Félix, Morata.
Prediction 2-1 Barcelona. Surely, the four teams competing — Valencia and Real Madrid being the others — have been encouraged to start their best 11 players, so star power will be out there on Thursday night. Atlético could be in yet another tight game with the champions and may come up short again, but the team at least should bring some spirit to a competition that philosophically lacks it.
My record on the season 15-10
Date Jan. 9, 2020
Location King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Kickoff time 10:00 p.m. AST, 8:00 p.m. CET, 2:00 p.m. EST
TV/streaming options Movistar+ (Spain), Saudi Sports 1 (Saudi Arabia), ESPN Deportes (United States), Watch ESPN (Brazil)