Copa del Rey final is the last opportunity for both Athletic and Barcelona to save this season and that should guarantee us a lot of fire at Estadio Vicente Calderon in Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao have done brilliantly to reach two major finals this season under El Loco Bielsa, but following the disappointing 3-0 defeat in Europa League final, they will be under pressure to perform against Barcelona.
Los Leones intentionally sacrificed the La Liga campaign so as to preserve their energy for the two Cup competitions, but such a strategy will prove to be in vain if they fail to lift the Copa del Rey trophy.
Following the period of over two months during which Athletic played two games every week, the team should profit from having two full weeks to prepare for this clash, and odds of 6.00 (5/1) offered by Bodog on Athletic to lift the trophy could be worth a shot.
Both Ander Herrera and Ander Iturraspe should be in the starting line-up after recovering from flu, meaning that Marcelo Bielsa is set to field the same side that started the Europa League final.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Iraizoz – Iraola, Javi Martinez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe – Herrera, Iturraspe, De Marcos – Susaeta, Llorente, Muniain.
Barcelona are set to end one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history and they are hoping Copa del Rey triumph will give them much needed boost ahead of the new season.
This will be Pep Guardiola’s last game in charge of the team, which should give the players an extra motivation to do well against Athletic and thus somewhat make amends for missing out on La Liga and Champions League titles.
In spite of serious selection problems, online bookmakers see Barcelona as odds-on favourites to win the game in regular time, with Stan James paying 1.33 (3/9).
Guardiola will have to make do without three important players seeing Dani Alves and Carles Puyol have joined David Villa in the infirmary, while Jose Manuel Pinto will continue between the sticks.
Young Martin Montoya is expected to start at right-back, with Cesc Fabregas and Pedro vying for the third place in attack.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Pinto – Montoya, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano – Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta – Sanchez, Messi, Pedro.
Ladbrokes will refund first goalscorer bets in the Copa del Rey final if Fernando Llorente scores at any time.