SUPER CUP RETURNS TO SAUDI ARABIA
Fans of Spanish soccer will turn their eyes to Saudi Arabia this week as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao compete in the Super Cup in Riyadh from Jan. 12-16.
Saudi Arabia staged the competition for the first time two years ago with Real Madrid defeating Atletico. Last year’s edition was held in Spain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Real Madrid and Barcelona will meet in the first semi-final on Wednesday while Athletic Bilbao and Atletico playing the following day for the other spot in Sunday’s final.
The Spanish soccer federation agreed a three-year deal worth a reported 120 million euros ($145 million) with the Saudi sports authority in 2019 to expand the competition and play the game in the Middle East.
BARCA COULD BE WITHOUT TORRES, PEDRI
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez will travel to Saudi Arabia on Monday without Ferran Torres and Pedri after they tested positive for COVID-19 last week, though they could still make the semi-final if they return a negative test later in the day.
Both players are asymptomatic but returned another positive test on Sunday. If they test negative later on Monday they can travel to Riyadh the following day.
Defender Eric Garcia, however, has been ruled out for five weeks due to a hamstring injury.
NO ‘VINIDEPENDENCY’ AT REAL, SAYS ANCELOTTI
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti says there is no ‘Vinidependency’ at the club despite the return of striker Vinicius Jr giving them an instant lift on his return.
Spanish media have used the term to describe the importance of the Brazilian forward to LaLiga leaders, who lost 1-0 to modest Getafe and laboured to a 3-1 Copa del Rey win over third-tier side Alcoyano in his absence.
Vinicius Jr, who had tested positive for COVID-19, was back in action on Sunday to help Real thrash Valencia 4-1, scoring twice in an electrifying performance.
The Brazilian has 14 goals in all competitions this season.