The illusion of Athletic Club de Bilbao faces the good moment of Real Madrid on Sunday in the final of the Spanish Super Cup (18:30 GMT), which is being played for the second year in Saudi Arabia.
Athletic, current champion, will try to renew the title against the meringues, who last lifted this Super Cup in 2020 in Jedá, on the first occasion that the final was played in Saudi Arabia.
On that occasion, Real Madrid beat Atlético de Madrid in the final on penalties, victim of the Basques (2-1) on Thursday in the semifinal of this edition of the trophy.
Athletic Club won last year’s final against Barcelona (3-2), defeated on Wednesday by Real Madrid in the semi-finals after extra time (3-2) at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, the scene of Sunday’s final.
The meringues arrive at the dispute for the first title of the year supported by their good form, which keeps them as outstanding leaders of LaLiga and encouraged by their victory in the Clásico on Thursday.
In that match, the offensive duo formed by Vinicius and Benzema, authors of two of the three meringue goals, once again stood out.
"They have, if I’m not mistaken, 38 goals between them. Not having their best day would help us win", admitted this Saturday at a press conference the coach of Athletic Bilbao, Marcelino García Toral.
Ancelotti will be able to have the two strikers again against Athletic, but he will have the sensitive loss of Dani Carvajal on the right side, after testing positive for Covid-19.
"The team has recovered well, I think we have no problem physically, we have two doubts: Alaba (who already missed the semi-final due to muscular discomfort) and Asensio, who we will evaluate in the afternoon training session", the merengue technician specified this Saturday.
Against Barcelona, Real Madrid became strong on the counterattack, but against Athletic Ancelotti announced that the "plan (of his team) is different from the semifinal because he has different records from Barcelona".
"Athletic is a well-organized team that never gives up"he warned.
Winner of a Champions League, a European Super Cup, a Copa del Rey and a Club World Cup with Real Madrid, Ancelotti now has the opportunity to add a new title, the first since he returned to the merengue bench last year.
Opposite will be an Athletic that aspires to renew its Super Cup title in a final to which the Basque team reaches "excited".
"We know how difficult it is to play against the fittest team in the League, but we are a difficult team and we are going to have options", assured Marcelino, who is going to play his fourth final in a year, after winning the Super Cup last year and losing the 2020 and 2021 Copa del Rey finals last April.
"We have just beaten the current league champion (Atletico), emotionally we are unbeatable, on a physical level we will see after training, it is expected that some discomfort and fatigue will appear, but I think that tomorrow we will have all the players"added the Athletic coach.
If Real Madrid has Vinicius and Benzema, Athletic looks to the Iñaki brothers and Nico Williams as its main offensive assets.
"I hope they are fundamental", Marcelino wished, who, however, put the accent on the collective game.
"We base ourselves on team play and our strength is to demonstrate our potential as such, but there is no doubt that from then on individualities add up to win"Marcellin said.
The Athletic coach does not have "nothing in mind other than winning", but on Sunday they will fight against the statistics after losing in the last two league games against the Whites (1-0, 2-1).