Activate discovery+Sep 23
La Liga leaders Barcelona turn their attention to the Spanish Super Cup on Thursday night as they take on Real Betis in Riyadh.
Will the Blaugrana prove too strong for Mauricio Pellegrino’s side? Or can Betis pull off an upset and reach the final for just the second time in their history?
You can watch it all unfold exclusively live on BT Sport 2 from 6.45pm.
Basics making the difference for Barca
Rarely have Barcelona been associated with an especially stingy defence, their passing authority usually takes the plaudits, but the success of Xavi’s team so far this season has been built on a solid backline.
With the exception of their recent 4-3 Copa del Rey scare against third-tier side Intercity, and some poor displays in the Champions League, the Catalans have been difficult to break down this campaign.
Atletico Madrid discovered that last weekend as they piled on pressure in search of an equaliser following Ousmane Dembele’s opener but could find no way through.
Andreas Christensen and Ronald Araujo impressed as part of a defence that has let in only six goals in 16 La Liga matches. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been as vital as ever, too.
It bodes well heading into the Super Cup, particularly given their semi-final opponents Real Betis are hardly free-scoring with just 19 goals in their 16 league games.
Betis out to make history
Real Betis have never won the Spanish Super Cup. And there’s no doubt that they find themselves up against more historically successful opposition.
For Betis, the closest they got was in 2005, when they were beaten over two legs by… you guessed it, Barcelona.
Pellegrini and his players will be determined to avoid a repeat of that, and they’re certainly capable of competing with the top teams.
Los Verdiblancos currently sit fourth in La Liga, a point above Atletico and on course for a Champions League place.
They’ve done it before in knockout competition, too, beating Valencia in the Copa del Rey final last season. Barca will be wise not to underestimate them.
Barca looking for change of fortunes in Super Cup
Recent history hasn’t been kind to Barcelona in the Supercopa de España. Not since 2018, with a 2-1 victory over Sevilla in Tangier, have they won the competition.
The change to a four-team format came in 2020 and that year Barcelona were beaten 3-2 by Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.
The following year they reached the final, but were beaten 3-2 by Athletic Club after extra-time.
And in 2022, the Blaugrana were beaten by their great rivals Real Madrid in the semi-final - 3-2, again - before Los Blancos went on to lift the trophy with victory over Athletic Club.