Star players announced for Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo contest

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone sets sights on Spanish Super Cup victory over Real in Riyadh

RIYADH: Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone said on Tuesday his side’s Spanish Super Cup semifinal clash with Real Madrid in Riyadh on Wednesday is a different proposition to their 3-1 La Liga victory when the sides last met, in September, but he still intends to emerge victorious.

The Kingdom is hosting the 40th Supercopa de Espana, which will take place at Al-Awwal Park in Riyadh from Jan. 10 to 14. City rivals Atletico and Real meet in the first semifinal of the four-club competition and Barcelona will face Osasuna on Thursday, with the final to be played on Sunday. All matches kick off at 10pm Saudi time.

“All tournaments are different and have their unique circumstances,” Simeone said. “We play consistently well and are aware that we are playing against a great club like Real Madrid. I have the utmost respect for all clubs and we are here today to compete for the win.”

Wednesday’s clash is the first between the clubs since Simeone’s side achieved a memorable league victory over Real thanks to an Alvaro Morata double either side of an Antoine Griezmann goal.

The two sides have also been drawn together in the Copa del Rey Round of 16, with their match due to be played on Jan, 18, and will meet again in the league on Feb. 4. Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he is unhappy to be pitted against his side’s fierce city rivals three times in less than a month.

“The calendar is what it is; we have to face Atletico Madrid again, we have to play this game,” he said. “I don’t like facing Atletico because they are one of the best teams. It’s always tough to play them — but Atletico will be thinking the same thing.

“We are two strong teams and it will be complicated but I think the fans will enjoy these fixtures, both Real Madrid and Atletico fans.”

Atletico’s victory in September damaged his side, Ancelotti admitted, though they have since been on a 19-match unbeaten run and sit equal top of the league with Girona. Atletico are 10 points behind in fifth place.

Atletico’s Argentinian star Rodrigo De Paul believes mental strength will be vital if his side is to earn another victory over Real.

“These matches always have significant importance on the mental side and one must be well prepared for them,” he said. “But for us, personally, we enjoy these matches and perform well.

“When we play away, we must perform and play as usual. We are aware and knowledgeable about the level we must present in Wednesday’s match.”

Simeone said of De Paul: “Rodrigo is an outstanding player and makes a difference in matches and plays in an important position, always proving himself in matches. He is considered a player who grows and develops well, and he has proven that in previous matches.”

Saudi Arabia this week welcomes world-class players, iconic clubs, and international fans from Spain as part of its long-term partnership with the Royal Spanish Football Federation. The previous three times the Kingdom hosted the Super Cup, in 2019-20, 2021-22 and 2022-23, attracted tens of thousands of fans, with the matches broadcast around the world. As has been the case since since the competition switched from a two-team to a four-team format in 2019-20, it features the winners and runners-up of the previous season’s Copa del Rey and La Liga.

• With AFP

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