The last time Barcelona faced Real Madrid, the Catalans were still coping with the trauma of Lionel Messi leaving and the effect of one of the worst and most serious financial crises in their history.
Ronald Koeman was still in command and the Catalan club was a morass from head to toe.
The 2-1 defeat at the Camp Nou by the Spanish League last October did not surprise anyone, and highlighted the fragility of Barcelona.
But things have changed a bit leading up to the second classic of the season, with bitter rivals meeting in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia.
Barça seems to be on the right track after embarking on a restructuring of its finances and some improvement in the field under the direction of coach Xavi Hernández.
“We were emotionally more touched, but the scene has changed,” said Barça defender Gerard Piqué. “Let’s hope to take advantage of it.”
According to the veteran defender, dedicating himself to the Super Cup could mark a turning point for Barcelona.
“In the situation we are in, each victory, and if we win the title now, reinforces you a lot, gives you a lot of confidence and is important for the next few months to come,” said Piqué.
On the other side, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti praised what Xavi has done after taking the reins of Barça at the beginning of November.
“I like it because he has a clear idea of the game he wants to play,” said the Italian helmsman. “Follow the line of the identity of this club. They have had a good run. With his ideas the team will improve ”.
Barcelona have recovered several players who were unable to perform against Madrid last year due to injury, including the youth midfielder Pedri González. He has also added signings that could make a difference on Wednesday, such as veteran Brazilian winger Dani Alves and attacker Ferran Torres.
Torres and Pedri recently tested positive for coronavirus, but on Monday they received the endorsement to travel to Saudi Arabia.
The Super Cup returns to Saudi Arabia after the coronavirus pandemic forced last year’s edition to be transferred to Spain.
The Royal Spanish Soccer Federation would have reached an agreement of 120 million euros (136 million dollars) to stage the contest in Saudi Arabia from 2020. The format was modified, expanding it to four teams instead of two, and now it is disputed to the middle of the course instead of the beginning. The changes were approved despite criticism from human rights activists and complaints from fans who prefer the tournament to continue in Spain.
The other semi-final match will face Atlético de Madrid, current league champions, against Athletic Bilbao, runner-up in the Copa del Rey.
“It makes no sense to go there to play a game that had to be played here, this is a championship in our country, there is not much more to say, controversies aside, I don’t want to go in,” said veteran mattress midfielder Raúl García. “I am one of those from before, you no longer think about the fan,
Madrid remained in the quartet after being Atletico escort in the league last season. Barcelona entered as champion of the Copa del Rey.
The meringues arrive in tune, leading the domestic tournament thanks to the goals contributed by the pair made up of Karim Benzema and Vinícius Júnior.
Meanwhile, Atlético is 16 points behind Madrid and with a pending match. The Basques are further behind, five units behind Atlético.