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Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Preview

May 24, 2012 By Angela Asante
This could be the match of the season both for Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona supporters around the world. The 2011/12 Copa del Rey final could be one of the best in the history of the competition.

The spotlight will be on Lionel Messi during the 2011/12 Copa del Rey final.Match analysis and pre-match quotes

There is so much at stake for both teams. The departure of Pep Guardiola has increased the hype ahead of the 2012 Copa del Rey final. It will be the 41-year-old’s last match in charge of Barcelona as coach. The public expects his players to play at their highest level since the motivation to dedicate the Copa del Rey title to Guardiola is there. However, the match comes at a rather bad time.

“We would have liked to play the match at an earlier date so that some of us could go on holiday, others could join their teams for Euro 2012 and others to prepare for their teams' World Cup qualifiers,” Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets explained during a pre-match press conference.


“Two weeks [after the end of La Liga season] are a lot and we have to think positively to prepare for this match the best possible way. The federation [put the 2012 Copa del Rey final on May 25] thinking about a potential Champions League final between Spanish clubs.”

Athletic Bilbao are plotting to spoil Pep Guardiola’s farewell party but their chances of doing so are very slim. Earlier this month, they lost to Atletico Madrid in the final of the UEFA Europa League. Marcelo Bielsa’s men tried to attack Atletico throughout the game but they suffered punishment as Falcao and Diego handed them a miserable 3-0 defeat.

In the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, Chelsea proved that a team can play negative football and still win. Athletic Bilbao could as well play defensively but it looks like they will stay true to their style of football as skipper Andoni Iraola told AS:Athletic Bilbao will try to attack Barcelona during the 2011/12 Copa del Rey final on May 25, 2012.

“We will play against a great team. But physically, we are prepared and we are a top side. The gulf in class between the two sides has been narrowed. The first goal will be crucial.”

The public can expect a great game marked with pace and goals. In an interview with his club’s official website, Cesc Fabregas analysed the 2012 Copa del Rey final as follows:

“We’re going to play against a spectacular team that we admire. They have hope, they’re eager and they always go forward. They remind me of some English teams, with very direct football but they also utilise their passing game.”

The key for Bilbao will be to shut down the Argentine and neutralize Xavi. Being physical might also help since Sergio Busquets and the rest of his Spanish international team mates want to avoid injuries ahead of Euro 2012.

In truth, there is no reason why Barcelona will have to lose such an emotional and important game. If they do not win the 2012 Copa del Rey trophy, critics will rightfully look at Pep Guardiola’s last season as a disappointing one although Barcelona won the FIFA World Club Cup late last year.

Team news

Barcelona will have to perform without Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal, Dani Alves and Andreu Fontas in defence. Meanwhile, David Villa is not fit yet and will therefore not participate in the 2012 Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao. The latter have absolutely no injury worries ahead of Friday's fixture.

Athletic Bilbao's probable line-up:

Goalkeeper: Iraizoz
Defenders: Iraola, Martinez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe
Midfielders: De Marcos, Iturraspe, Herrera
Forwards: Susaeta, Llorente, Muniain

Barcelona's probable line-up:

Goalkeeper: Pinto
Defenders: Montoya, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano
Midfielders: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Forwards: Fabregas, Messi, Alexis

Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona could be a tighter affair than what most are predicting.Match prediction

Lionel Messi will probably be a constant threat to Athletic Bilbao’s defence, forcing Bielsa to play negatively or accept a one-sided affair which will end in defeat.

Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Barcelona

Should Athletic Bilbao play for a draw in normal time, prospects of an upset will seem brighter. After all, Barcelona will be missing a few key players. In that case, a penalty shoot-out or a miraculous moment in extra-time may settle matters for the team that will take its chances.

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