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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s loss in the Super Cup Clásico

At the end of a bad night for Real Madrid, there’s a lot to discuss.


Well, the Super Cup Clásico final didn’t go as Real Madrid hoped. In fact, it went far worse than any Madridista feared. Barcelona ran riot and won 3-1, but it could have been a larger scoreline and only a stoppage time Karim Benzema goal prevented this from being an even bigger margin of defeat. After a result like this, there is a lot to discuss, so here come three pre-match questions that we had and three new ones we have after this defeat.

Three answers

1. Could Real Madrid equal Barcelona’s Super Cup total?

So much of the pre-match talk ahead of this Clásico was about how winning it could be good for confidence, how it could reinforce each team’s project, how it could be a springboard for the rest of the season. Forget all of that. The most important objective was the trophy in play on the night. That’s what football is all about: trophies, whether big or small, especially if the final is against your biggest rivals. So, the main pre-match question was simply whether Real Madrid could retain the Super Cup trophy, which would pull them level with Barcelona on 13 total Super Cups. But, it wasn’t to be, as Barça deservedly won the game 3-1 and moved onto 14 Super Cups, leaving Real Madrid behind on 12.

2. Would Ancelotti have a plan for Pedri and Gavi?

Just nine days ago, Carlo Ancelotti dished out some unprompted praise for Pedri and Gavi when discussing the best up-and-coming midfielders in world football. The Italian is clearly a big fan of the two young Spaniards, so would he have a specific game plan to stop them? Especially considering Xavi was expected to play just two forwards and give Pedri and Gavi more license to roam? Well, no. Ancelotti really didn’t have a plan. Not for Pedri, not for Gavi, not for Barcelona in general. The plan seemed to be to either counter attack or to hope Vinícius or Fede Valverde could do something ridiculous. And, unsurprisingly, that plan wasn’t enough, as Pedri and Gavi, with the assistance of Robert Lewandowski, demolished Real Madrid.

3. Would the stands be full at the King Fahd International Stadium?

Neither of the semi-finals was a sell-out at King Fahd International Stadium, far from it. But, this final was a sell-out, even before it was confirmed that the final would be a Clásico. Many people in Riyadh had purchased tickets in the hope that it’d be a Clásico and, with the blockbuster match-up confirmed, they did turn out in force. In fact, there may have been many more people inside the venue than the reported official attendance of 57,340. According to The Athletic’s Mario Cortegana, people were able to keep entering the stadium throughout the game, sitting on the stairs as there were no seats left. That shows the appetite to see these teams in this part of the world, but thankfully there wasn’t a major incident from this influx of extra fans.

Three questions

1. Why are Real Madrid suffering more of a World Cup hangover than Barcelona?

This defeat wasn’t too big of a surprise for anyone who has watched all of Real Madrid’s games since the resumption of club football. They have not been good since the World Cup pause, not even in the victories they’ve had over Real Valladolid or Cacereño. Los Blancos looked fatigued and lacking in intensity, what looks to be a World Cup hangover. But, why is it that Real Madrid seem to be suffering more of a World Cup hangover than Barcelona? Barça sent 17 players to Qatar, four more than the 13 Real Madrid players who went. Yet, the Catalans still look fresh. Why is that?

2. Can we call Rüdiger a disappointment yet?

Look, almost every player on the pitch was a disappointment tonight, so it’s not fair to single any individual out. But, it might be time to talk about Antonio Rüdiger. His arrival as a free agent in the summer was supposed to bolster the Spanish and European champions’ defence, but it really hasn’t worked out that way. Rüdiger has added certain positives, and fans already love him for his personality, but he hasn’t yet been the defender that he was billed as, and was one of the weakest links in Riyadh tonight. There’s still time for the German to turn it around, but is it fair to say that, at least so far, Rüdiger has been a disappointment?

3. How much more important is Villarreal away on Thursday?

Having lost this game, Real Madrid’s hopes of winning a sextuple are already over. The truth is that nobody inside Real Madrid was talking about this as a realistic objective, as it was more a creation of the local media, but losing any trophy hurts. So, how much more important is the Copa del Rey now for Real Madrid, having lost the Super Cup? That’s the next competition on the agenda, as Ancelotti will take his team to Villarreal for a Copa del Rey last 16 rematch against the side that just defeated Real Madrid in LaLiga. It really feels like that game has taken on added importance now.

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