Real Madrid will face off against Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Supercopa de Espana at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh this weekend.

Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao will contest for the first piece of silverware of the 2021/22 season when they battle it out for the Supercopa de Espana in Riyadh on Sunday night.

Real Madrid made it to the final of the Spanish Supercup after they defeated arch-rivals Barcelona 3-2 in a thrilling encounter that lasted for 120 minutes. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been in fine nick, with the 1-0 defeat to Getafe in their first game of 2022 being a minor misstep. It remains their only loss in their last 19 matches in all competitions, and Los Blancos will be hoping to build on that momentum and win their first trophy of the season.

However, Athletic Bilbao, who are the current holders of the Supercup, will pose a serious challenge for the Merengues. Marcelino’s side made it to the Supercup final after defeating Real Madrid’s neighbours, Atletico Madrid, 2-1 courtesy of late goals from Yeray Alvarez and Nico Williams. Los Leones have lost just one of their last six matches across all competitions, although it did come against Ancelotti’s men late last month.

Real Madrid have defeated Athletic Bilbao in both their meetings this season, beating them 1-0 and 2-1 in La Liga. Ahead of their latest encounter, with the first major trophy of the campaign on the line, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao have no major injury issues to deal with ahead of the clash as Unai Nunez has joined up with the camp in Riyadh. Asier Villalibre has recovered from his knock, but Unai Vencedor remains sidelined for the Basque outfit. Marcelino will set his team up in the usual 4-4-2 formation, focusing on hitting Real Madrid on the break.

Unai Simon will man the goal for Athletic, where he will be shielded by the centre-back pairing of Yeray Alvarez and Inigo Martinez. Oscar De Marcos and Mikel Balenziaga ought to take up the full-back slots. The former could be in for a tough outing against Vinicius Junior.

Dani Garcia and Mikel Vesga will be tasked with holding down the fort in the middle of the park and keeping a lid on the Real Madrid midfielders’ output. Captain Iker Muniain will provide a threat from the left flank while last game’s hero, Nico Williams, should get the nod on the right-wing, with Alex Berenguer an option from the bench.

Up top, Nico’s elder brother, Inaki Williams, is a certain starter. He should have Oihan Sancet as his partner in the two-pronged strikeforce that will look to trouble Real Madrid with their pace and physicality.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Simon; De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Balenziaga; N. Williams, D. Garcia, Vesga, Muniain; I. Williams, Sancet

Real Madrid

Dani Carvajal has tested positive for coronavirus and will miss out, while Marco Asensio is also unavailable due to an injury. In addition, central defenders David Alaba and Jesus Vallejo are also major doubts for the contest, giving Carlo Ancelotti some selection headaches for the Supercopa de Espana final.

Thibaut Courtois is the undisputed starter in goal for Los Blancos. With Carvajal ruled out, Lucas Vazquez should start at right-back, while Nacho Fernandez is expected to partner Eder Militao at the heart of the defence in the potential absence of Alaba. Ferland Mendy is the obvious pick for the left-back slot.

There is no looking past the first-choice midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. Modric and Kroos will be key to creating goalscoring chances, while Casemiro’s presence will be vital in helping Madrid stop their opponents’ counters.

With Asensio set to miss out, Rodrygo Goes is expected to start on the right flank while the remaining two slots in attack should be occupied by the star duo of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have lost just one of their last five games against Athletic Bilbao in all competitions.
  • Athletic Bilbao are undefeated in their previous four encounters across all competitions.
  • Real Madrid are the second-most successful club in Spanish Supercup history, having won it 11 times.
  • Athletic Bilbao have won the competition on three occasions, including in the 2020/21 season. Only Barcelona and Real Madrid have lifted the Supercopa de Espana trophy more times. 

Player to Watch

Vinicius Junior

The 21-year-old Brazilian is in the form of his life and is playing his best football in a Real Madrid shirt. So far this season, Vinicius has already racked up an impressive return of 15 goals and nine assists from 27 matches across all competitions. The forward was on target in the Supercup semi-final against Barcelona.

Vinicius’ pace, directness and the ability to beat his man make him a huge threat going forward, while his refined finishing skills have helped him become a more potent attacker. His partnership with Karim Benzema will be key for Real Madrid against Athletic.

Prediction

Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid were pushed to the brink by Barcelona in the semi-final but held their nerve to come out on top. Athletic Bilbao showed tremendous fight and determination to come back from a goal down to eliminate Atletico Madrid. Both teams will be gunning for a victory on Sunday night as Athletic look to retain the Supercopa de Espana while Real Madrid hope to win their first trophy of the season.

Los Blancos have picked up two wins in two against the Basque outfit already this season, although Marcelino’s men caused their illustrious opponents plenty of problems. More of the same could be on the cards in Riyadh. Considering the form that Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are in, Carlo Ancelotti’s side should be able to come out on top and win their 12th Spanish Supercup.

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