Verdict: Barcelona win
Best odds: 8/15
Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona will face each other in the 2020-21 Copa del Rey final at the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville on Saturday evening. With 23 and 30 triumphs, respectively, these teams are the most successful two in this historic competition. They met in the final of the Supercopa de Espana in January, in which the Basque team came back twice (the second time in the final minute of the game) to win, after extra-time which saw Lionel Messi earn a straight red card at the very end. Antoine Griezmann had given the Catalans the lead both times, first cancelled out by Oscar de Marcos and then by Asier Villalibre, and the decisive goal came from Inaki Williams three minutes into the first period of extra-time.
Bilbao lost the 2019-20 final to Real Socieded earlier this month, and they’ll be highly motivated to do better this time around. They reached the final through Ibiza and Alcoyano, before knocking out Real Betis in the quarterfinals and beating Levante over two legs in the semis.
Their position in La Liga never really mattered for this particular competition, but at the moment, Bilbao are 11th with 37 points, 11 more than Elche who top the relegation zone, and 10 less than Sociedad and Betis in places five and six. Mathematically, they could still be relegated on one hand and reach Europe on the other, but looking at it realistically, they’ll likely end the campaign where they are now – in the middle of the table.
Bilbao haven’t been on very good form recently. They didn’t win any of their last six matches, drawing four and losing twice; they lost 2-1 to Atletico in Madrid, played a goalless draw away to Celta Vigo, drew 1-1 at home against bottom-side Eibar, lost last season’s Copa final 0-1 to Sociedad and drew 1-1 against them in the league, before hosting Alaves for another goalless draw.
Head coach Marcelino won’t be able to call upon centre-back Yeray Alvarez, left-back Yuri Berchiche, and two midfielders, Peru Nolaskoain and Oier Zarraga, all through different injuries.
Captain Iker Muniain is likely to play behind Williams and Raul Garcia upfront.
It has been another season of misery for the Catalans in the Champions League. Having failed to win the elite European competition since 2015, they were humiliated by AS Roma, Liverpool and Bayern Munich on the last three occasions, before suffering defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 this time around. There is, of course, still a chance for them to save the season by winning a trophy, and this match feels like the best one at the moment.
Barcelona arrived to this stage by beating first Cornella and Rayo Vallecano, then Granada in the quarterfinals, and then by coming back from a 2-0 defeat to Sevilla in the first leg of the semis to win the second by 3-0.
It may have looked that there would be no hope of winning the La Liga title this season for Ronald Koeman’s team until recently, but due to some poor results from leaders Atletico Madrid, both Barcelona and Real Madrid are now fully back in the race which promises to be extremely exciting to the very end. Barcelona are currently third with 65 points, one less than Real in second and two less than Atletico.
Unlike Bilbao, Barcelona won four of their last six matches in all competitions, drawing and losing one apiece. They won 0-2 away to Osasuna, drew 1-1 in the second leg against PSG in France, beat Huesca at home by 4-1, smashed Real Sociedad away by 1-6 and beat Valladolid 1-0 at home, but the one that will have mattered to them the most was the 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Real in Madrid last week.
Head coach Ronald Koeman will be without the services of midfielder Philippe Coutinho and forward Ansu Fati, both of whom have been absent with knee injuries for a while now. Goalkeeper Neto is also out with a knee problem, but he would hardly have been expected to feature ahead of Marc-Andre ter Stegen anyway.
On the other hand, defender Gerard Pique is back from injury and should be named in the lineup, along with Griezmann upfront who started the El Clasico on the bench.
It will likely be an exciting contest, not easy for either side despite the obvious gap in quality, but Barcelona should still be able to win this and get their revenge on Bilbao for the Supercopa defeat.
Verdict: Barcelona win
Best odds: 8/15
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