Real Madrid are into the Super Cup final, after prevailing against Barcelona in extra time in Riyadh. It was a wild Clásico, one of the most entertaining in years, finishing 2-2 after 90 minutes and then ending in Real Madrid’s favour thanks to a Fede Valverde finish after a mysteriously brilliant Vinícius dummy. All of that and much more is discussed here, as we look at three pre-Clásico questions that were answered and three more we have after this game.
1. Would Barcelona be any better than the past few Clásicos?
You’d have to go back decades to find a Clásico were Real Madrid were such favourites going into it. This was partly because of their great LaLiga Santander form, but also because they had won four Clásicos in a row coming into this one. So, would Barça put up more of a fight? Would Xavi’s side be a tougher prospect than the previous versions of the Blaugrana? Well, yes and no. Real Madrid still won to make it five consecutive wins over their rivals for the first time since the 1960s, but it was a tough game and one that required extra time. Some even said afterwards that Barcelona were the better side and deserved to win, but Real Madrid actually created more chances. Just because Barça had more possession doesn’t mean they were more dominant. As Ancelotti himself put it in his post-match press conference: “I don’t think that Barcelona dominated, as I think it was even. They used possession and we used counter-attacking.”
2. Would Dani Alves vs Vinícius be the mismatch we expected?
Dani Alves is 38 years of age, literally older than Rodrygo Goes’ father. He should not be starting for a club like Barcelona and his performance against Granada on Saturday demonstrated that, regardless of the fact that he assisted their goal. Coming into this game, it was going to be interesting to see what Vinícius could do against his fellow countryman. Sure enough, Vini won this battle. Time and time again, Dani Alves was on the ground as the 21-year-old sped away towards the Barcelona goal. It didn’t help Dani Alves that he had the ineffective fellow January signing Ferran Torres on his same flank, and Vinícius made the most of this weakness.
3. Would it be “todo OK” for José Luis?
RMTV caused some controversy in the build-up to this game by putting out a video criticising José Luis Munuera Montero, the referee of this Clásico. He was famously the official being referred to with the “todo OK José Luis” phrase after a non-call for a possible Vinícius penalty in a Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad game and RMTV brought this up, along with other reasons why they believed decisions would go against them this Wednesday night. But, that concern was - obviously - completely unfounded. Every club could compile a similar video about every referee is they wanted to. But, there’s no need to stir up such drama before the match even starts and, thankfully, there was no refereeing controversy in this one and Munuera Montero had a good game.
1. Did Vinícius know Valverde was there?
Real Madrid’s winning goal was something special. Ancelotti said he wanted to play on the counter attack and Los Blancos had a five-vs-three opportunity as they broke quickly after Dembélé lost the ball. As Rodrygo played the ball to Vinícius, something mysteriously brilliant happened as the 21-year-old stepped over the ball, leaving it for Fede Valverde to take and finish. How did Vinícius know Valverde was right there? Or did he think the ball was rolling to Benzema? In any case, why didn’t he want to shoot himself? These are all questions that don’t really matter, but it’d be fascinating to know what exactly was running through Vinícius head at that moment as he decided taking the shot himself wasn’t the right move.
2. Is Valverde the hero of Saudi Arabia?
This is the second time that the Spanish Super Cup has been played as four-team tournament in Saudi Arabia and it’s the second time that Fede Valverde has emerged as a hero for Real Madrid. After scything down Álvaro Morata during a clear and late counter attack and accepting a red card in the 2020 final in Jeddah, the Uruguayan this time popped up with the winning goal against Barcelona. It has been a difficult 2021/22 for him so far, but maybe this can be the springboard he needs to have a good second half of the campaign.
3. Who’ll face Real Madrid in the final?
Really, the most important question now is about Real Madrid’s opponent for Sunday’s final. Will they face Atlético Madrid or Athletic Club? Ancelotti has said he doesn’t care who they meet and it’s tough to know who’d give Los Blancos a more difficult game. Atlético would give their all against their city rivals and have more quality, but Athletic have produced two really good performances against Real Madrid already this season. Perhaps the best outcome for Real Madrid from Thursday’s other semi-final is simply for that one to go the full 120 minutes too.