Spanish soccer

Super Cup win helps boost Real Madrid credentials as world’s best team

Inspired Benzema helps Ronaldo-less club from Spanish capital add to impressive trophy haul

José Sámano

Wednesday night’s second-leg Super Cup win over a woeful Barcelona brings Zinedine Zidane’s trophy haul to seven ahead of his third season at Real Madrid. Playing at home and with a 1-3 advantage after Sunday’s first leg at the Camp Nou, Madrid made it clear from the start that they intended to dominate, while Barcelona looked like a shadow of its former self.

Madrid pose after winning the Spanish Super Cup.
Madrid pose after winning the Spanish Super Cup.Álvaro García

Such was Madrid’s confidence that the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, serving the first game of a five-match ban went unnoticed. Furthermore, Zidane decided to give Gareth Bale, Casemiro and Isco, the night off.

Real Madrid played like a side that knows it is on a roll, even before the season has begun

A Barcelona that looked adrift, save for a few moments of brilliance from Messi, must now be seriously worried about their chances in the upcoming season. Messi did his best keep his team in the game, but it is worth noting that he didn’t get his first touch of the ball until Madrid were already a goal up and had set a pattern of fast passing and pressing that left Barcelona floundering.

It was clear that Barcelona still haven’t worked out how to replace the structure created that put Neymar – who has left for Paris St-Germain – alongside Suárez and Messi up front. Valverde opted for a 5-3-2 line up, but the team’s performance in the first half suggested not enough time had been spent working on the system.

Things looked like they might pick up for Barcelona when Messi took possession of the midfield, but it was soon clear that without Neymar to fall back on, Rakitic and André Gomes couldn’t seem to make up their mind whether to press forward or try to hold the fort in the center of the pitch, thus reducing Messi’s options.

And when Messi did try to press forward alongside Luis Suárez, Barcelona found they either had no support or that Real had dropped into a deep defensive shape quicker than they could attack and then launched a counter-attack down the wings.

Barcelona still haven’t worked out how to replace the structure that put Neymar, Suárez and Messi up front

The second half brought little change, as Madrid, already having won the Super Cup, sat back and allowed Barcelona to take more possession. For a moment it looked like Messi was going to turn on the magic as he sprinted onto a soft pass from Suárez, dribbled into the box and found himself one-on-one with Keylor Navas, only to hit the crossbar.

Later, Suarez tried to make something of a half-hearted Roberto Sergi shot palmed away by Kovas but his open-goal header hit the outside of the post. The symbolism was hard to avoid.

Real Madrid played like a side that knows it is on a roll, even before the season has begun. They’ve won two Champions League tournaments in a row, two trophies this season already and are favorites to take another La Liga title.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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