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Spanish Super Cup 2023: Who are the best Real Madrid players to watch? Benzema, Vini Jr. Modric...

El Clásico: Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in the Spanish Super Cup 2023 final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

El Clásico: Real Madrid and Barcelona face off in the Spanish Super Cup 2023 final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Separated by just three points at the top of LaLiga, Real Madrid and Barcelona will fight it out directly for Spanish Super Cup trophy on in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, although the last time they met in any kind of final came all the way back in the 2013-14 season, when Gareth Bale scored the winning goal – that goal – in the Copa del Rey final in April 2014.

What time does the Spanish Super Cup 2023 final kick off?

The final on Sunday 15 January kicks off at 10pm local time in Saudi Arabia, that’s 2pm ET and 11am PT. We will, of course, bring you live coverage of the game right here on AS USA.

Now, let’s be completely honest. The Spanish Super Cup would’ve been seen as being ‘nice to win’ but not at the top of the list of either club’s priorities at the beginning of the season. However, now that both have qualified, and given the rivalry that exists between the two, it will be win-at-all-costs.

How many times have Real Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup? How many times have Barcelona won the Spanish Super Cup?

Sunday’s final also represents an opportunity for Real Madrid. Los Blancos lead the way fairly handsomely in terms of Champions League wins (14-5) and LaLiga victories (35-26), and they now have the chance to tie Barcelona’s record of winning the Spanish Super Cup on 13 occasions. What better way to do than by defeating the team that sits at the top of the tree?

Real Madrid and Barcelona faced off in the Spanish Super Cup semi-final last year – Madrid won 3-2 after extra time on the way to beating Athletic Club to the trophy – but the last time they met in the final was in 2017. The capital side ran out convincing 5-1 winners back in the days of the two-leg format, which epitomises the dominance they have enjoyed over their arch-rivals in the competition; Real Madrid have won six of the seven finals between the teams.

Who are Real Madrid’s players to watch in the Spanish Super Cup 2023 final against Barcelona?

If they are going to extend that to seven out of eight, which players do we – and perhaps most importantly Barcelona – have to look out for?

Karim Benzema

It’s a bit of a no-brainer to say that the current Ballon d’Or holder is one of the main danger men. The Frenchman has thrived since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from the club in summer 2018, becoming the focal point of the attack and scoring 141 goals in 208 games in that time, including 44 in 2021-22.

The Madrid captain has endured an injury-hit season so far but is now back at full fitness and wowed the crowd in Riyadh with some lovely touches in the semi-final penalty-shootout victory over Valencia (at one point in the game, he had four or five consecutive touches which were all back-flicks). On top of his own goalscoring threat, Benzema knows how and when to create space for others, as well as possessing the ability to find them.

Karim Benzema have had decisive impacts at opposite ends of the pitch for Real Madrid
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Karim Benzema have had decisive impacts at opposite ends of the pitch for Real MadridJESUS ALVAREZ ORIHUELADiarioAS

Vinícius Júnior

The goals have dried up a bit for Vinícius Júnior after a blistering start to the season. The Brazilian has scored just once in his last 10 matches for club and country having previously found the net 10 times in 17 games for Real Madrid earlier in the campaign. Has opposition teams doubling up on him and often trying to kick him to pieces stifled him? Has his form been affected by the disgraceful racist abuse he’s been subjected to on numerous occasions? If so, it would be perfectly understandable.

Despite Vini’s drop-off in form, he’s still capable of creating something out of nothing from the left flank and Barcelona know that better than anybody. They have earmarked in-form defender Ronald Araújo, normally a central defender, for the right-back role for the final, in the hope that the Uruguayan can keep Vinícius quiet.

Luka Modric

Midfield maestro – is there any other vocabulary available to describe him? – Luka Modric heads into Sunday’s final fresher than many others having come on at half-time in Wednesday’s win against Valencia. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has understandably tried to manage the 37-year-old’s minutes carefully this season to ensure he is at peak fitness for the ‘big’ games.

The Spanish Super Cup final is certainly one of those and Los Blancos will look to the Croatian to pull the strings and dictate the tempo. Rumour has it that Barcelona will switch from their favoured 4-3-3 system to a 4-4-2 with four central midfielders and combatting Modric is one of the main reasons for that.

Luka Modric will return to the Real Madrid side for the Spanish Super Cup 2023 final against Barcelona.
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Luka Modric will return to the Real Madrid side for the Spanish Super Cup 2023 final against Barcelona. GIUSEPPE CACACEAFP

Thibaut Courtois

Real Madrid have been one of the most successful clubs in European soccer in the last few years but they haven’t always been blowing opposition teams away with their scintillating play. They’ve spent plenty of time on the back foot, especially against other elite-level teams, but a combination of superb mental strength, a never-say-die attitude and an unbelievably good goalkeeper has often got them over the line.

Thibaut Courtois was voted player of the match against Liverpool last June, making a record number of saves in a Champions League final as Los Blancos lifted the trophy. Given how often the Belgian makes game-winning saves and interventions, the Belgian feels like an underrated part of Madrid’s recent success.

Fede Valverde

The furore surrounding Fede Valverde has died down a little of late, with the Uruguayan having suffered the same fate this season as Vinícius Júnior. Valverde hit the headlines in September and October with some blockbuster goals from long-range but hasn’t found the net for club or country since 2 November.

There is, however, plenty more to his game than goals, with his strength, speed and stamina often allowing him to have a decisive impact on games, like the Clásico against Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, which Real Madrid won 3-1 in October.