Sunday’s SuperCopa final in Jeddah is between two teams who won a combined zero major trophies last season. But here we are — the extended invitation to four teams, and a seeding system that allows for Atletico and Real Madrid to creep in — means we have an incoming (bonus) Derby.
Atletico Madrid didn’t look nearly as convincing as Real Madrid did in their semi-final tie, but there are some caveats: Valencia didn’t put up much of a fight against a Zidane masterclass; and Barcelona went into a high gear and dominated Simeone’s men for 80 minutes — only to go through a wild and unpredictable collapse as their high line was ultimately torched by an Atleti side who didn’t cross the half-way line for the majority of the game.
To help set the stage for the final, we reached out to Jeremy Beren of Into The Calderon. Jeremy answered some questions for me, and in turn, I answered some questions, from a Real Madrid perspective, for Jeremy. You can read my answers over on their site later tonight.
As an aside, you may remember that we used to do these types of articles regularly. I can’t promise ‘Q&A with the enemy’ is making a comeback, but I’ll try my best.
If you haven’t already, make sure to listen to today’s Churros y Tácticas Podcast for more SuperCopa discussion:
Kiyan: So, it turns out Atletico Madrid CAN attack if they absolutely have to. Against Barcelona, Joao Felix had six passes at half time, and Oblak had more touches than Angel Correa, Renan Lodi, Joao Felix, and Alvaro Morata. All of a sudden Atletico were facing elimination late in the game, and decided to absolutely torch Barca’s high line. Why can’t they just do that more so that we don’t have to gouge our eye balls out to watch Atleti play every week?
In a pretty even game xG-wise, Atleti win after a late comeback with goals from Morata and Correa— Statified Football (@StatifiedF) January 9, 2020
Barça had the best of non-shot xG, but it wasn't enough for Messi and co...#BarcelonavsAtletico #Barcelona #Atleti #Messi #Supercopa #SupercopaBarca #SuperCopaEspana pic.twitter.com/Y9tckdSv5a
Jeremy: Because where’s the fun in having lots of possession and playing fluid, attacking football? That’s no fun.
One of Diego Simeone’s great ironies is the anxiety brought about by his cautionary tactics, his enjoyment of seeing out slim leads. When Koke opened the scoring immediately after the second half began on Thursday, I kinda expected more of the same. Atlético had been under siege in the first half and now had a lead to protect.
But Barcelona finally made all that pressure count — and in a knockout situation, finally forced Simeone’s hand. A healthy Vitolo gives Atleti trickery and a change of pace, and his aggression essentially changed the game. Barça looked tired, and Antoine Griezmann himself said his old team had the fresher legs.
In short: it’s about control and solidity, and Simeone doesn’t like losing that. But his players were backed into a corner and were aided by a very weak Barça defense. They didn’t want to fly to Saudi Arabia for nothing.
Kiyan: Thomas Partey made my La Liga team of the season so far, even though he seems to have cooled off a bit. How important is he?
Jeremy: Thomas has been Atlético’s most consistent midfielder this season after competing for minutes with Rodri last year. He’s 26 now and has morphed into an extremely complete pivot, breaking lines with his progressive passing (he’s one of the league’s best in this regard), starting counterattacks with his tackling and dropping deepest to aid his central defenders. His only weakness (if we can call it that) is his proclivity to foul — but he’s a Simeone midfielder, of course he’s going to take out an ankle or two. Overall, he’s playing the best football of his career and he needs a new contract — the current one has a €50 million release clause.
Kiyan: Will we ever see Saul play centrally consistently again? I’m getting tired of seeing him as wing-back, or a highly defensive winger. Last night, he did not look great against Messi on that flank, but we all know how good he can be.
Jeremy: Saúl’s best assets are his versatility and willingness to do anything for the team. His biggest detriments are his versatility and willingness to do anything for the team. He has shown more comfort from left back this season and Simeone has seen fit to play him there often given Renan Lodi’s lack of experience. His best position remains as a CM and Cholo’s preferred pairing is Saúl-Thomas, but the coach has found it difficult to keep Héctor Herrera out of the team — HH has earned his minutes over the past couple months.
Kiyan: Marcos Llorente nearly scored a wild solo goal. Was that his greatest moment in an Atleti jersey, and do you have any hope for him at all?
Jeremy: I’ll say yes, because there haven’t been many other moments to choose from!
I will hold out hope for Marcos for as long as I can. The player who dominated at Alavés is still in there somewhere. Hell, even the guy who played quite well under Solari last year is still in there. But he’s picked up yellow cards at a really high rate and three of the other central midfielders — Koke, Saúl and Thomas — are all starters when healthy. It’s a complicated situation for him, and save for an injury there isn’t an easy resolution.
Kiyan: Give us your prediction
Jeremy: Atlético will win the SuperCopa with another late goal. 2-1.