If Tangier seemed a far off place to Barça and Sevilla, imagine what Tallinn feels like to madridistas and atléticos. Nevertheless, a decent number of die-hard fans/tourists have made the trip to the beautiful, Estonian capital on the banks of Baltic Sea for a UEFA Super Cup final which this year, has a distinct Castizo feel about it and showcases Madrid’s football par excellance. By chance, it also falls on a day which is regional holiday in Madrid, and a national one in the rest of Spain - the Assumption. In Madrid, locals are taking to the streets for the Virgen de la Paloma, the traditional celebrations of which are a colourful backdrop for an unforgettable Zarzuela. A day of feasting, song and dance in Las Vistillas, and crowned by a Madrid derby of the finest order later tonight. We’re in for a great match – one which both will want to win and fear losing.
Silverware and pride in play
For Lopetegui, this will be his first serious test. Up until now, everything he’s done has looked convincing – the high pressing, the way in which he has made a point of involving everyone in his squad, the ‘BBA’ Bale-Benzema-Asensio attack and even the discreet way in which he has indirectly requested another centre-back (if only Vallejo didn’t suffer so many injuries!) and also a striker. As for Simeone, this is his third final/derby and for many of his allies, it’s high time he won one. The club made a huge effort to hang on to Griezmann and to bring in quality reinforcements. Simeone has a better squad now than the one he had when he first arrived and for that reason, this will be a bigger test than the previous finals.
VAR will not be in use tonight. I mention it because a lot of people have asked me. VAR is not used in European competitions – as I explained the other day, because it would require a high number of European referees to have undergone training in it and that isn’t the case. It’s different with the World Cup because FIFA can train up a limited number of match officials (many of whom come from leagues where the technology is already in use); in contrast, within UEFA’s competitions, it would involve giving training and instructing a large number of refs of different nationalities. Until its use has expanded to the majority of Europe’s leagues, there won’t be VAR in any UEFA competition.