The Supercopa de Espana is historically undervalued by La Liga‘s elite, but in this strangest of seasons the competition has taken on a whole new significance.
The Supercopa offers a great chance for Barcelona and Real Madrid, in difficult moments with bruised egos, to get their hands on the first piece of silverware available to them this season and set themselves up nicely for the second part of the campaign.
The Blaugrana held up their end of the bargain, edging past Real Sociedad last night in Cordoba. Madrid looked to do the same tonight at La Rosaleda, where they also faced Basque opposition in Athletic Bilbao.
They couldn’t, however, mirror their Catalan rivals and set up a Clasico final. Athletic went into the break two goals to the good thanks to a Raul Garcia brace, and despite pulling one back through Karim Benzema and having an equaliser (also Benzema) disallowed Los Blancos were beaten 2-1.
Zinedine Zidane‘s men will now return to Madrid empty-handed while Marcelino, freshly appointed at San Mames, will prepare his charges to face Barcelona in the final on Sunday.
Marcelino, speaking post-game in comments carried by Marca, was understandably pleased to have made such an instant impact at Athletic. “The sensations are very good,” he said.
“Winning against Real Madrid always leaves you satisfied. The work of the players has been enormous in terms of their commitment and I’m very satisfied [with them].
“We’ve taken advantage of the previous work and we wanted to give individual and collective confidence to the team. We were lucky to avoid playing against Atletico and thus we were able to train more.”
The extra work Athletic were able to put in on the training ground paid dividends, with the players able to better assimilate the recently-arrived coaching staff’s methods.
“We wanted to apply pressure based on where the ball was,” Marcelino said. “I think that the middle block we used was very effective in putting pressure on each wing.
“The team’s defensive work was fantastic, as well as being able to offer something on the counter-attack. We lacked a bit of confidence in terms of moving the ball, but we can’t have it all.”