Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – 15 January, 2024: Xavi Hernandez praised the warm welcome that Barcelona have received in Saudi Arabia as his side look to win back-to-back Spanish Super Cup finals against rivals Real Madrid in Riyadh.
This time last year, the Barcelona manager guided his team to a 3-1 El Clasico victory over Real Madrid in the Saudi Arabian capital city. After beating CA Osasuna 2-0 in their semi-final on Thursday, Xavi says Barcelona are determined to retain the Spanish Super Cup and win the competition for the 15th time in their history – more than any other club.
The El Clasico final takes place at Al Nassr’s Al Awwal Park in Riyadh on Sunday January 14 at 10pm Saudi Arabian time.
Speaking at the pre-final press conference, Xavi said: “We are here in Saudi Arabia and all the time everybody respects us, and everybody supports us. We are very happy to be here, and I think Saudi football is going to improve a lot in the next years because they have everything in order to have the best players in the world.
“An El Clasico match with such intensity as this cannot be predicted and its outcome will be played out on the field. We will compete for a cup that we won last year, and last year we played excellently. We will show our opponents that we are hungry and excited to win, but playing against Real Madrid is always a strong match and we will give everything we have to win the title.
“We do not focus on one player in Real Madrid because they have many excellent players, led by Jude Bellingham, who is performing at a great level.”
Barcelona’s goals at Al Awwal Park on Wednesday came from Robert Lewandowski and 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal, who came off the bench to net in injury time and seal the result. Xavi has no doubts of Yamal’s talents – regardless of whether he starts or is asked to come on as a substitute.
Xavi said: “Yamal is a great player and we want to see his potential and skills, and this depends on the game situation.”
Real Madrid earned their place in this year’s Spanish Super Cup final by defeating city rivals Atletico Madrid 5-3 in Wednesday’s semi-final in Riyadh, and the Barcelona manager also praised his opposition counterpart Carlo Ancelotti at the press conference.
Xavi said: “Ancelotti is one of the best managers in the world and has succeeded in all the places in which he has coached – he is a role model for coaches and a great coach.”
This year’s Spanish Super Cup – the fourth time the tournament has been played in Saudi Arabia – is the latest illustration of the Kingdom’s commitment to host the very best international events across all sports, with football at the forefront.
Last year’s Barcelona win was preceded by Real Madrid beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in Riyadh in 2022 and Los Blancos defeating Atletico Madrid on penalties in Jeddah in the first tournament on Saudi soil in 2020.
While enabling the Kingdom to build relationships and showcase the unique football culture to the world, hosting events like these provides new opportunities for the Saudi people to be inspired, pursue dreams, and realise potential.
The Spanish Super Cup kick-starts an incredible year-round schedule of international sports in the Kingdom, with football, motorsport, tennis, esports, combat sports, golf, and equestrian events all locked in for 2024.