MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid want to start the new season the same way they ended the last — by winning a trophy.
Madrid won the Champions League in their last game last season, and on Wednesday they kick off the new season by taking on Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Super Cup in Helsinki, Finland.
Madrid are eyeing their fifth Super Cup title, and the first since 2017, while Frankfurt will make their first Super Cup appearance following their shootout win over Rangers in the Europa League final. The victory ended the German club’s 42-year wait for a European trophy.
Madrid ended last season on a high after comfortably winning the Spanish league and overcoming poor performances to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages. He finally clinched a record 14th European title in the final against Liverpool.
The Spanish powerhouse will remain virtually unchanged in 2022-23, led by Karim Benzema after his best season ever. Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo are also back in an attack that dominated last season, and the midfield remains anchored by Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. The reinforcements of the team are central defender Antonio Rüdiger and midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni.
Isco Alarcón and Gareth Bale left after their contracts expired but the club failed to replace them despite the disappointment of not signing Kylian Mbappé from Paris Saint-Germain. Instead, Madrid are hoping for another impressive season ahead of 34-year-old Benzema.
The French striker was the top scorer in the Spanish league and the Champions League. He scored 44 goals in 45 appearances for Madrid and equaled Raúl González as the club’s second top scorer with 323, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (451).
Benzema has scored twice in his two pre-season games – a 2-2 draw with Mexican club América and a 2-0 win against Juventus – and did not play in the 1-0 defeat of Madrid against Barcelona.
Madrid will play their Spanish league opener on Sunday at promoted Almería.
Frankfurt’s season has already started. They beat second division side Magdeburg 4-0 in the German Cup first round, then lost 6-1 at home to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga opener on Friday, when the visitors led 5-0 at halftime.
“On Wednesday we have the opportunity to do better against an equally strong opponent,” Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner said. “Sometimes it’s nice to get a slap in the face so everyone doesn’t think things are going to continue like last season.”
Frankfurt hadn’t won a European title before winning the UEFA Cup in 1980. They won their only German league title in 1959, and since then they have won five German Cups, the last in 2018.
Wednesday’s game will be the teams’ first competitive meeting since the 1960 European Cup final, when Madrid clinched their fifth successive European title with a thrilling 7-3 win at Glasgow. Alfredo Di Stéfano scored a hat trick and Ferenc Puskás scored the other four goals for Madrid.
The match at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium will be the first UEFA club competition final to be held in Finland, although the venue also hosted the UEFA Women’s European Championship final in 2009.
The semi-automated offside technology will be used for the first time in a European club competition. The new system works with cameras capable of tracking 29 different body points per player and will allow video review teams to determine offside situations faster and more accurately, according to UEFA.
The system was tested during the Women’s Euro 2022 in England and in the Champions League last season. It has also been approved by FIFA for the World Cup in Qatar,
AP Sports Writer Ciarán Fahey contributed to this report from Berlin.
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