Athletic embracing its Super Cup underdog status

Athletic won its third Super Cup last year against the odds, overcoming Barcelona after extra time in the final in Spain.

Athletic captain Inigo Martinez welcomed the side's underdog tag.   -  REUTERS

Spanish Super Cup holder Athletic Bilbao is relishing its underdog status as it prepares to face La Liga champion Atletico Madrid in the semifinal of this year's tournament in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Athletic won its third Super Cup last year against the odds, overcoming Barcelona after extra time in the final in Spain after the tournament was moved from original host Saudi Arabia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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After its stunning victory, the Copa del Rey finalist is ready to seize another opportunity to shock it rivals and secure a place in Sunday's final against Real Madrid or Barcelona, who play later on Wednesday.

"I think it's beautiful to come here as the underdog. It's marvellous not to be the favourites," Athletic captain Inigo Martinez told a news conference in Riyadh on Wednesday.

"In a single game there are no favourites, we know how to compete against those teams, one hundred per cent we can face anyone."

Athletic coach Marcelino was confident going into Thursday's match against Diego Simeone's side given its recent record against the La Liga title holder.

"We are playing the three best players in Spain and arguably from Europe. But we are going all in," Marcelino said.

"We played three times against Atletico the last year: they beat us once, one draw and we won one too, always in very close games, which indicates that we are not far from them. Yes, it can be tough in a 38-weeks competition, but in a single elimination match there is always more equality."

Atletico may be forgiven for wanting to concentrate on improving its fourth position in La Liga this season but Simeone promised supporters the side would go all out to win in the Middle East.

"I always say that the responsibility of defending this club is big, even if it is a friendly match, we are representing our supporters and they have expectations. We have to win. As simple as that," Simeone said.

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