The Atlético goalkeeper lives an atypical course: he concedes more goals than he avoids. In 2020, in Jeddah, it was key to the pass to the final
To confirm the theory that Riyadh is (almost) unfathomable, it is best to try to look out on any of the 68 floors of the Burj Rafal, the second tallest building in the city (308 meters). Obviously, the higher, the better the view. In this avant-garde skyscraper, which seems to have been planted on the sand without more, hides offices, residential accommodation and, of course, an opulent five-star hotel of the Marriott chain, the Burj Rafal Riyadh, where the Atltico has set up its center of operations.
With a bit of luck and a sense of location, if the dust and mist allow it, perhaps the view can locate the Rey Fahd stadium, where this Thursday (8:00 p.m.) the rojiblancos face Athletic, current champion, in search of his second final in Arabia. And all these circumstances must occur because there are 29 kilometers that separate both points. An ordinary distance in the DNA of the Saudi capital.
In one of the rooms of the sumptuous Burj Rafal Riyadh I walked this Wednesday Jan Oblak, after completing the morning activation session and, in the afternoon (night in Riyadh), he will complete training at the Prince Faisal Stadium. Both he and the rest of the expedition saw the classic on television. The panorama of the Spanish Super Cup has changed for Atlético in a month and a half. Then he was traveling (more or less) at the speed that he was supposed to, despite being seven points away from the head of the League. So the tournament looked more like a nuisance.
A month and a half later, Atlético is 16 points behind Real Madrid and involved in a spontaneous battle for a place in the next Champions League, along with a wide range of rivals (Betis, Barcelona, Real Sociedad, Rayo…) . That is why the Super Cup has ceased to be a nuisance to become a kind of oasis in the midst of waters that have not calmed down. The bleeding of those four defeats in a row, something unprecedented in Simeone’s 10 years, overshadowed the holidays. And although they have started the year with a better face and better results, they still haven’t purged some of their sins. Hence the importance of the meeting in Riyadh. The adventure is no longer uncomfortable, it is a challenge.
23 stops, 24 goals conceded
Through Oblak’s gloves, as has been customary almost since his arrival, a good part of Atltico’s destiny passes. And that, at any other time, will be a reason for peace of mind. But not now, since the Slovenian goalkeeper, second captain, is experiencing an unknown situation. The numbers, always crude, reveal that this season he has conceded more goals in the League than he has avoided. There are 23 stops for 24 goals received. There are 11 league visits without a single clean sheet. A fact that is enlarged to 14 with the three Champions duels. The last time Jan Oblak left his door clean away from the Metropolitan, eight long months have passed: it was on May 8, 2021, at the Camp Nou (0-0).
It would be an anecdote for any team, but not for Madrid. And much less for Oblak: 167 clean sheets in 329 games. The state of the Slovenian goalkeeper is a bit of a thermometer for the team. It is true that on Sunday, at the La Cermica stadium, he managed to deflect Gerard Moreno’s penalty, but also that his gloves trembled again where before he stopped time with his eyes. Just turned 29, he lives a strange situation: up to 10 teams have conceded fewer goals. There were years in which in January he had almost buttoned up one of his five Zamoras. Jan finds himself with the need to recover those superpowers that he already exhibited in this same land, against Bara, during the Super Cup that was held in Jeddah, in 2020. In 2014, weeks after arriving at Atlético, he was young and a substitute .
We know his level and for me he is the best goalkeeper in the world. Although this year we are not having the fortune of other years, we see him strong, I defended him this Wednesday Koke, with whom he shares gallons in the locker room.
On the rug of Riyadh will be Angel Strap, Clear. A guy you can always trust. But today and in this season, more than ever. Because the Argentine has plenty of confidence, who renewed a few days ago until 2026 and could complete more than a decade (he signed in 2015) as a rojiblanco. Only that explains the goal from almost 50 meters that he signed in Villarreal. The best of the 53 who has scored in 306 games with Atlético. He was the one who sealed the ticket for the final of the 2020 edition, after executing Barcelona (2-3) in Jeddah.
A thousand kilometers from there, Atlético will have the opportunity to fight for its third Super Cup. In a way, you don’t have much to lose either.
Reference from elmundo