RIYADH (Reuters) – Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said his side were the very essence of a counter-attacking team, a style he declared himself “delighted” with ahead of their meeting with Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final in Riyadh on Sunday.
Real overcame perennial rivals Barcelona 3-2 in extra time in the semi-finals on Wednesday to book their spot in Sunday’s final.
“Our counter-attacks against Barcelona were not simple long-ball counter-attacks, they were built with three or four low and short passes. They were organized, really well done. We had six players in Barcelona’s box when we scored our last goal. It was brilliant,” the Italian told a news conference in Riyadh.
“People say that we play with counter-attacks? I am delighted to play with counter-attacks like those.”
Ancelotti also said he had never imagined being back for a second spell and training the side ahead of another final, after he left the club in 2015.
The 62-year-old was in charge when Real won their 10th Champions League trophy in 2014, and he left the club in 2015.
“I would never have imagined that I would be here again and here I am, seven years later, very happy to live this moment,” Ancelotti said.
“Playing a final with this club is always special because it’s in their essence. They are used to being in games like this.”
After defeating Barcelona, Ancelotti said his team was preparing for a “completely different match against a completely different rival” in Athletic.
“Our plan will need to change, our team knows how to adapt to different situations. We are not married to a specific style,” Ancelotti said.
“Athletic is a very tough and well-built team. Their coach is one I really admire, Marcelino García. He always know how to control the little details. His teams are always well-organized and they never surrender.”
Athletic coach Garcia said his team were ready for a tough task in the final, following their 2-1 come-from-behind semi-final win against Atletico Madrid.
“Real Madrid counter-attack very well because they have a very powerful midfield and two players up front in Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior who are very decisive,” he told a news conference.
“They are the most in-form team in Spain, and we will need to be on our top form to beat them. But we are a difficult team to play against, and will leave it all on the pitch.”
(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Hugh Lawson)