Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao: Copa del Rey final preview

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Spanish champions Barcelona have a task to prove their quality as they host Athletic Bilbao in tonight's Copa del Rey final.

Both teams are the leading winners having won the trophy 26 and 23 times respectively, bringing the total titles between them to 49.

Athletic Club was the first to hold it in 1903. Barcelona and Athletic Club last won in 2012 and 1984 respectively. They were runners up last year and 2012 respectively. That makes Bilbao thirstier for the trophy.

Translated in English as King’s Cup, the Copa del Rey has its entire history in the hands of Athletic Club who won Copa de la Coronación cup against Barcelona in 1902 in a tournament to commemorate coronation of King Alfonso XIII.

Even though the club honours it, the Royal Spanish Football Federation does not recognise it. However, Bilbao won the King's Cup, immediately later, consecutively in 1903 and 1904.

In their six King’s Cup final encounters, they each won thrice. If the Catalans repeat what they did in Mestalla, Valencia in 2009 and Vicente Calderón, Madrid, in 2012 when they dismissed the Basques 4-1 and 3-0 respectively, they will have proved a point of their form and might. Barcelona has beaten Athletic Club in recent La Liga meetings, 2-0 and 5-2.

Star-studded outfit

Since tonight’s match will decide who, between the two clubs, earns the fourth (standing out of the pool) or marks the fiftieth title, the Blaugranes have a challenge to show talent, especially, of their celebrated attacking trio composed of the four-time Ballon d'Or maestro Leo Messi, Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez.

Neymar is a top contender for Pichichi with six goals. The others include Athletic Club striker’s Aritz Aduriz, five and Pedro Rodríguez, four (Barcelona).

If the Catalans give way to the Basques and miss the double, they put their UCL hopes, waiting on wings in a week against Juventus, at risk; and their much-hyped treble is plunged into sludge of a deep sea. It will not be a pie upon the tongues of majority of the Barca fans and their gullets may not swallow it.

Barcelona driven by faith

While addressing the Press on his team’s faith, Barcelona’s head coach, Luis Enrique, said: “After lots of matches in the competition and a faultless run, now the best is to come. We are highly motivated and we don’t value any trophy over another.”

He observed that fans for both the teams rival as they pour their hearts upon them. “The two sets of fans have an excellent relationship and they will do their best for both their teams,” said Enrique.

Athletic Club will win their first title at the Camp Nou as Barça fail, for the first time on home ground; or lose their first Cup Final in Barcelona, as Barça make it five out of five in their home town. Whichever the case, the winners will be excited as losers nurse their disappointment.

What Enrique must be prepared to ensure is that the home-team is not embarrassed on the home-ground. No set of fans wants to bite it whether it is bitter or tasteless. Barcelona must win the finals or else the club’s president Bartomeu may be forced to change his mind and hand him the ‘gift’ like his predecessor, Tata Martino, after he dropped La Liga Cup at the feet of Atletico Madrid on 17th May last year. That will not be a sweet story on anyone’s lips.

Otherwise, tonight, 30 May 2015, will either poise the Catalans’ faith or see the Basques win their first title at the Camp Nou.

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