Tonight brings down the curtain on the Spanish football season as Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona will meet in the Copa del Rey Final in Madrid, in what will be Pep Guardiola’s last game in charge of Barca.
But if Guardiola is going to leave with another winners medal, he is going to have to do it with a injury riddled squad. Without Alves, Puyol, Villa, Abidal or Fontàs, Barca have problems at the back.
Barca were given a boost however when Alexis Sánchez and José Manuel Pinto were both been declared fit on Thursday, taking the total number of available players to sixteen. To add to the numbers, Guardiola has called up B team members Tello, Bartra, Dos Santos and Montoya. Given so many absentees in defence, possible options for Barça could be to play Montoya at full back or to opt for a three-man defence.
Meanwhile, Athletic Bilbao should be able to field a full-strength eleven as the Basques are looking to win their first major title since 1984. Athletico impressed fans around the world with their play in the Europa League, and they will looking to make up for the disappointment of losing the Europa League final.
With 23 titles, the Copa del Rey has always meant a lot to Athletic, but Barça are not a side against which they have too much success of late. In 12 games between the two rivals over the last four seasons, they have lost nine times and only managed three draws.
Athletic Club (4-1-4-1) : Iraizoz – Aurtenetxe – Amorebieta – Javi Martínez– Iraola – Iturraspe – Herrera – De Marcos – Muniain – Susaeta – Llorente
FC Barcelona (4-3-3) : Pinto – Adriano – Pique – Mascherano – Montoya – Busquets – Xavi – Iniesta – Alexis – Messi – Pedro
Prediction: It has been a long season for both squads, and with the injuries that Barca have, this is a great opportunity for Athletic to beat them. But as long as Barca have Messi in their line-up they have to be favorites.
Score: Athletic 2 Barcelona 3