|Taken from Suite Life|
Today is the day when two of the most illustrious football clubs in Spain do battle for the right to be bestowed upon the title of Copa Del Rey champions. Outgoing Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola, would want nothing more than victory before handing over the reins of leadership to protege, Tito Vilanova.
Fresh from respective European disappointments, both clubs are aiming to end the season on a high. Athletic BILBAO can dream once again. Coach Marcelo BIELSA aka El Loco has brought back smiles to the supporters of the Basque county.
Despite the Europa League set back, it has still been a memorable campaign for Athletic Club. Playing some scintillating and eye catching football along the way, they swept past the likes of Manchester United, Sporting and Schalke to set up an all-Spanish final v Atletico Madrid who later crushed them by 3 goals to nothing to claim their second Europa League crown in 3 seasons.
Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao are the 2 most successful clubs in Copa Del Rey history. Between them, 48 trophies have been won with both appearing in exactly the same number of finals (35). The Catalans have won the most trophies 25, compared to Atheltic’s 23.
They last faced off 3 years ago, on Barca’s way to a historic season, where they became the first club to win 6 trophies in one calendar year (2009). That day, Puyol and company won comfortably 4-1.
This year’s final will be held at Atletico’s Vincente Calderon, after Real Madrid refused the showpiece event to be held at their stadium (Santiago Bernabeu) for reasons best known to them.
Barcelona will most likely be without David Villa, captain and defensive rock-Carles Puyol and certainly Eric Abidal who recently announced that he will never play football again after undergoing a liver transplant.
The talking points in this marquee game will be Barca’s vulnerability in defence and Bilbao’s attacking potential. Although the talismanic LLORENTE has scored loads of goals this season, he misfired in the Europa League final and Barca will not give away too many chances.
In players like Iker Muniain, touted as the next Iniesta or even more talented, Athletic Club possess the necessary weapon(s) to stretch Barca beyond limits. Of course, the world is well aware of the threat the Blaugrana (Barcelona) pose.
The blessed trio of Xavi, Messi and Andres Iniesta are joined by Cesc Fabregas who has had a dream campaign, and Alexis Sanchez. The prodigiously gifted Ibra Afellay can be the unsung hero when called upon.
Apart from the small matter of the Copa Del Rey final later today, Barcelona will bid farewell to their most successful manager come the end of proceedings. Pep GUARDIOLA who is in line to claim a 14th major honour as Barca coach, is officially drawing the curtain on a stellar 4 year stint as leader and supreme commander of perhaps the greatest football army ever assembled.
In his almost half a decade as manager, he has won all the trophies on offer- 2 UCLs, 3 successive Ligas and 2 CWCs among others. His unique footballing mindset and passing philosophy has paid dividends of magnificent proportions.
The former Blaugrana midfielder has written his name in the top echelon of great managers in history and his records will take some beating, if indeed they will ever be surpassed. Today he faces his mentor and great friend, Marcelo Bielsa, the same man he sought his expert opinion when the call came for him to become a coach some six years ago.
Marcelo Alberto Bielsa Caldera is one of the greatest managers in world football. The man nicknamed El Loco, has won an Olympic gold and managed the likes of Chile and Argentina. His innovativeness and comprehensive knowledge of the beautiful game is second to none.
In the 2 matches against Barcelona this season, Pep lauded the impressive approach of Bielsa’s players to the games and the likes of Thiago and Mascherano spoke highly of the energy levels/retrieval pattern of the Basque players. This game is theoretically a battle of tactical adeptness.
|Taken from Their Tactics|
So whatever respect and affection Pep and El Loco have for each other, sentiments will be discarded for at least 90 minutes when the game kicks off in Madrid.
AU REVOIR JOSEP GUARDIOLA…..THE FOOTBALL WORLD will forever be indebted to you and above all GRATEFUL!!!!! Wish you the best in your future endeavours.
Written by Ohiskaka Eboreime
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