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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Sergio Ramos has rejected the idea that Real Madrid will take on an “enemy” in Atletico Madrid when the two sides face off in Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia.
The city neighbours contest the showpiece for the expanded competition at King Abdullah Sports City after coming through semi-finals against Valencia and Barcelona, on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Madrid defeated Valencia 3-1, while Atletico dispatched Barcelona 3-2.
Ramos, the Madrid captain, has often been at the centre of heated battles with Atletico in the past – Sunday’s match is a repeat of the 2015-16 Uefa Champions League final, which Madrid won on penalties, while they also met in the 2018 Uefa Super Cup, with Atletico winning in extra-time.
However, speaking on Saturday at the pre-final press conference, Ramos tempered the notion that there was any real animosity between the competing teams.
"It's ugly to talk about enemies; it's a rivalry," he said. "I don't see any team as an enemy, just a direct rival. They’re just one of our biggest rivals.
"They are an uncomfortable rival, with a great coach and a great team. They fight until the last ounce of hope. We are prepared and we will fight to the death for this title.”
Ramos denied Madrid had an issue up front, with Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Marcos Asensio all missing from the side. He also defended manager Zinedine Zidane, who had previously been criticised by some regarding his team selection.
To Zidane's credit, Madrid come into the match on the back of a 15-game unbeaten run. Currently, they sit joint-top of La Liga after 19 rounds, behind champions Barcelona by a goal difference of only two.
"I don't think he has been disrespected,” Ramos said of his manager. “Journalists are here to give their opinion. He has a difficult task, to choose 11 [players]. But he knows the dressing room and he is free to play whoever he likes.
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"We are on a good run. The team has responded with a very good output, and also with another system. We want to continue winning matches.”
Like his side, Ramos said he is currently enjoying a rich vein of form, saying: “I feel very well right now, younger every day. This is one of the best moments in my career, I think, and if I perform well that will be good for the team.
“I hope that we don’t suffer injuries and that we can keep clean sheets more often, because that’s always very good for the team.”
Victory on Sunday would give Madrid an 11th Super Cup crown, but the first since the tournament was this year extended to four teams instead of the traditional two.
The Spanish Football Federation has signed a three-year deal with the Saudi General Sports Authority to stage the competition in the Kingdom, said to be worth €120 million (Dh490m). In past seasons, Madrid would not be contesting the trophy given they did not win either last season's La Liga or Copa del Rey. They qualified for the present competition by finishing third in the league.
Asked about the revised layout, Ramos said: "The format doesn't depend on us, but on the federation, and they have done it well. The Super Cup has recovered its value; there are now four teams competing.
"It favours us this year as we were one of the invitees. Maybe next year, other teams will arrive to compete. It is very well organised. And if the clubs and the federation benefit..."
Updated: January 12, 2020 09:13 AM
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