Zinedine Zidane

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Real Madrid defeats Atlético in penalties, wins Spanish Super Cup

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In the Spanish Super Cup final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid played to a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes with Los Blancos winning their 11th Super Cup after coming out on top in penalties 4-1.

Captain Sergio Ramos converted the decisive penalty, earning manager Zinedine Zidane his ninth final win.

Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Rodrygo scored in the shootout, while Saúl Ñíguez and Thomas Partey failed to for Diego Simeone’s side.

Los Colchoneros had a clear scoring chance in the 113th minute. As Alavaro Morata paced forward with only Thibaut Courtois to beat, Real Madrid’s player of the match, Federico Valverde, executed a game-saving tackle, sending Morata to the floor. Valverde saw a red card immediately after the tactical tackle.

Atlético ‘keeper Jan Oblak and Courtois played key factors on Sunday, recording six and five saves, respectively. The routine saves throughout 120 minutes forced extra time for the fifth consecutive final between the city rivals since 2013.

The Madrid Derby wraps up the debut of the new Spanish Super Cup format. Originally a final played between the league and Cup champions, the competition was expanded to four teams by the federation.

Two years remain of a reported three-year, $133-million deal that has the competition based in Saudi Arabia.

Madrid plays Atlético in Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia

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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — The Spanish capital’s two soccer powerhouses will face off on Sunday thousands of kilometers from Madrid in the final of the new-look Spanish Super Cup.

Real Madrid plays Atletico Madrid in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to decide the winner of the first edition of a revamped tournament.

The Spanish federation expanded the competition to four teams – instead of two – and moved it from the start of the season to its midpoint. The federation was not deterred by human rights activists and European football’s governing body who criticized it for taking the mini-competition to Saudi Arabia on a three-year deal reportedly worth 120 million euros ($134 million).

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin had recommended for European soccer teams not to play in countries “where the basic rights of women are not respected.”

Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales has tried to deflect the criticism by highlighting that opening the games to women spectators was part of the deal to play in the country.

Coach Ernesto Valverde, whose Barcelona team was beaten by Atletico 3-2 in Thursday’s semifinal, has publicly said that the games are about making more money.

Amnesty International organized a small peaceful protest in front of the Saudi Arabia embassy in Madrid on Wednesday to call for the release of women activists who have been fighting for their rights in Saudi Arabia.

On the field, and despite the limited interest the games have drawn back in Spain, the semifinals offered some exciting contests. Madrid showed off the quality of its midfielders to overcome injuries to its forwards in a 3-1 win over Valencia on Wednesday, while Atletico stunned Barcelona with two late goals.

Traditionally the Super Cup was the league vs. cup winner. Barcelona won last season’s Liga, while Valencia claimed the Copa del Rey.

Madrid will still be without the injured Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard. Against Valencia, manager Zinedine Zidane successfully experimented with a line-up loaded with five midfielders, and three of them- Toni Kroos, Francisco “Isco” Alarcon and Luka Modric – found the net.

Zidane, however, was tight-lipped over whether he would repeat the formula against Atletico at the King Abdullah stadium.

“I am not going to tell you how we are going to play,” Zidane said Friday. “The important thing is that we play on the attack, not with a certain scheme. The important thing is to have a balanced side.”

This will be the third time the crosstown rivals have met since the end of last season. Atletico embarrassed Madrid 7-3 in a preseason game in the United States in July. They then drew 0-0 at Atletico’s stadium in a Spanish league match in September.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone said that his two most in-form players, goalkeeper Jan Oblak and forward Angel Correa, have recovered from knocks they received against Barcelona. Oblak made several saves to keep his team alive against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona until Alvaro Morata and Correa struck to flip the score.

“Madrid is a team that we know very well,” Simeone said. “They transmit the sensation that they have to win, and then they do so. We are both teams that are extremely motivated to win this cup and we will both use all our weapons to win this game.”

Zidane’s experiment pays off

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MADRID — Without some of his best forwards, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane trusted his midfielders to get the job done.

Zidane used five players in the midfield to make up for the absence of forwards Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup against Valencia on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, and it paid off handsomely.

Madrid had one of its best games of the season, cruising to a 3-1 victory and advancing to Sunday’s final against either Barcelona or Atletico Madrid.

Zidane used newly arrived Luka Jovic as the lone striker up front. Instead of adding forwards Lucas Vazquez, Rodrygo or Vinicius Junior on the flanks, he packed the midfield with Francisco “Isco” Alarcon, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde and Casemiro.

Kroos, Isco and Modric each scored to give Madrid the comfortable victory at King Abdullah Sports City.

“We always like to try new things,” Zidane said. “We could have used two forwards, but we decided to bring Isco and Modric toward the middle and give more space to the fullbacks. It’s an attacking-minded lineup. The important thing is that we pressured our opponent on its field. We wanted to make things difficult for them from the start.”

The tight midfield kept Madrid in control throughout the match, dominating Valencia by constantly threatening in attack while not conceding much ground defensively. Madrid ended with more than 60% of ball possession and exchanged a team season-high 798 passes.

“We were in control,” Casemiro said. “It was an experiment to play with five midfielders and we showed that it can be done.”

Zidane said the good performance against Valencia does not guarantee he will use the same formation again.

“It was the choice today, but we may change things again for the next match,” Zidane said. “We need to get some rest before we start preparing for the final.”

Benzema, Madrid’s leading scorer with 16 goals in all competitions, didn’t make the trip to Saudi Arabia because of a left hamstring injury, while Bale stayed home because of a throat infection. Hazard has been nursing an ankle injury since last year.

The Spanish Super Cup is being played in a “Final Four” format for the first time. Previously, only the Spanish league winner and the Copa del Rey champion participated. Madrid made it this year as the third-place finisher in the league after Spanish champion Barcelona lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Madrid is seeking its eighth Spanish Super Cup title. Barcelona is the competition’s most successful club with 10.

La Liga roundup: Real Madrid held to back-to-back draw (video)

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Real Madrid’s second consecutive league draw highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

Barcelona head into La Liga’s mid-season break with a two point cushion as Real Madrid were held to a draw by Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It’s Zinedine Zidane and company second consecutive draw as Los Blancos are just days removed from Wednesday’s stalemate at Camp Nou in El Clasico.

Despite controlling possession completely, Real Madrid were unable to break the deadlock. Nacho and Luka Modric each hit the crossbar, while subsitute Luka Jovic struck the post in the dying minutes of Sunday’s bout.

“I’m very disappointed for my players,”Zidane said in his post-match press conference. “They put in a lot of effort and had a good match, but we lacked a goal again. In football, it’s true that you have to score them. We had three or four in the first half where if you score then the match could be different.”

“It’s only a couple of matches without scoring, so we have to remain calm because the performance was good,” he added. “I think we’ve gotten better and we’re strong defensively. Today, we just lacked a goal, but the important thing is to create chances. After the match I spoke to the players and told them that the most important thing was that they gave their all. Today, the ball just didn’t want to go in. We hit the post three times.”

When the home side managed to put shots on target, Bilbao’s Unai Simon was there to prevent a goal. The Basque goalkeeper registered eight saves throughout the 90 minutes.

With the draw, defending champions Barcelona go two points clear of Los Blancos, who return to action January 4 when they visit Getafe, while Bilbao – now seventh on the table – go against Sevilla to start the new year.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Leganes 2-0 Espanyol 

Osasuna 3-4 Real Sociedad

Real Betis 1-2 Atletico Madrid

Levante 3-1 Celta Vigo

Spoils split in dud El Clasico

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The first El Clasico of the season was a relative dud, though Real Madrid made another statement of strong defense in a 0-0 draw with Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

Barca dropped points at home for the first time this season, but maintains its table edge on goal differential. All La Liga sides have now played 17 matches, with Barca and Real five points clear of third place Sevilla.

The visitors out shot Barcelona 17-9, and had 46 percent of the ball on the day.

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Zinedine Zidane’s suddenly stingy defense kept Barca out of the box for much of the game. Real has only allowed 12 goals in 17 La Liga matches this season after allowing 46 in 38 last campaign.

Barca produced the only big chances of the match aside from an offside Gareth Bale goal, but had little aside from Lionel Messi.

The Argentine great completed a remarkable 8 of 9 dribbles but missed a scoring chance. Luis Suarez was quite poor in the draw, Antoine Griezmann slightly better in his Clasico debut.

Real’s tactics became more and more reliant on the counter attack as the game wore on, and Gareth Bale ripped a shot off the outside netting in the 68th.

Bale had the ball in the back of the goal in the 72nd, but was whistled offside.

The jailing of nine Catalan separatists caused an initial postponement of the match, and perhaps the midweek legs cost both teams some class.

The match was originally scheduled for Oct. 26, and La Liga officials were so angry at the move of a marquee television match to midweek that they appealed to the courts.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Barcelona 17 11 3 3 43 20 23 7-1-0 4-2-3 36
 Real Madrid 17 10 6 1 33 12 21 6-2-0 4-4-1 36
 Sevilla 17 9 4 4 21 17 4 4-2-2 5-2-2 31
 Getafe 17 8 6 3 26 16 10 5-3-1 3-3-2 30
 Atlético Madrid 17 7 8 2 18 10 8 5-3-1 2-5-1 29
 Real Sociedad 17 8 4 5 28 20 8 4-2-2 4-2-3 28
 Athletic Club 17 7 6 4 19 12 7 6-2-1 1-4-3 27
 València 17 7 6 4 27 24 3 4-5-0 3-1-4 27
 Granada 17 7 3 7 24 22 2 5-1-3 2-2-4 24
 Osasuna 17 5 8 4 22 20 2 3-4-1 2-4-3 23
 Levante 17 7 2 8 22 26 -4 4-2-2 3-0-6 23
 Betis 17 6 5 6 24 29 -5 5-2-2 1-3-4 23
 Villarreal 17 6 4 7 30 25 5 3-4-1 3-0-6 22
 Alavés 17 5 4 8 18 24 -6 4-3-2 1-1-6 19
 Valladolid 17 4 7 6 14 20 -6 2-4-1 2-3-5 19
 Eibar 17 4 4 9 15 28 -13 3-0-5 1-4-4 16
 Mallorca 17 4 3 10 18 30 -12 4-2-3 0-1-7 15
 Celta Vigo 17 3 5 9 14 25 -11 2-3-4 1-2-5 14
 Leganés 17 2 4 11 12 28 -16 2-1-6 0-3-5 10
 Espanyol 17 2 4 11 12 32 -20 0-2-7 2-2-4 10