— Sports

Barcelona, Bilbao meet in 2nd Copa del Rey final in April

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – When Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao face off on Saturday, they will play for more than the Copa del Rey trophy. Bilbao wants to remove the sting of losing the 2020 Copa del Rey’s delayed final, played earlier this month against Real Sociedad at the same La Cartuja stadium in Seville.

Barcelona needs to show Lionel Messi that this team, which coach Ronald Koeman has done his best to rejuvenate with younger players, can get back to winning titles right now as the Argentine mulls his future.

Messi has remained silent on his plans this summer when his contract expires since he stunned the club in August by saying that he wanted out following its first season without a trophy since 2008.

Koeman now has his team in the thick of the Spanish league title race, but the former Barcelona defender knows that the club’s debts and turnover in its executive board don’t exempt him from bringing home trophies.

“I am the first one who knows where I am,” Koeman said Friday. “I am at a great club like Barça where you have to win regardless of the changes we are making and the club’s economic situation. While less talented, Barcelona is facing an adversary that has shown it has the weapons and, above all, the tenacity to beat it in a cup competition. Tomorrow we have a final, and we must win it; the rest does not matter.”

When the two teams met in January, what looked like the prelude to a title celebration turned into a nightmare for Messi. Barcelona led the Spanish Super Cup final until Bilbao stuck a 90th-minute equalizer and prevailed 3-2 in extra time through Iñaki Williams’ winner. Messi lashed out at an opponent in frustration and earned himself his first career red card for Barcelona.

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen hopes the painful loss can serve his team well on Saturday.

“It is good to live moments like we did in the Super Cup,” the German said. “Let’s hope the experience will give us good feelings tomorrow so we can be prepared for everything.”

The final also gives Barcelona a chance to bounce back from its 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid last weekend. That loss ended a 19-round unbeaten streak in the Spanish league, leaving it in third place at just one point behind its fiercest rival and two points behind leader Atlético Madrid.

Bilbao will aim to improve its toothless performance when it failed to generate scoring chances and lost 1-0 to Sociedad in the all-Basque cup final only two weeks ago.

Bilbao has always emphasized Spain’s oldest soccer tournament, which it has won on 23 occasions, second only to Barcelona’s 30. But the club that only fields players from the Basque Country region or neighboring northern areas has not lifted the cup since 1984.

Besides the last edition, it reached the final in 2015, 2012, and 2009, losing to Barcelona in all three.

Bilbao coach Marcelino García Toral has revitalized the team since he took over before it beat Barcelona in the Super Cup final. He also coached Valencia when it beat Barcelona in the 2019 Copa del Rey final, ending its four consecutive cup titles.

Marcelino said his team lost to Sociedad because it let “the fear of losing” undermine confidence.

When you feel that mental sensation, you drift away from what you must do to win the game,” Marcelino said. “(Against Barcelona). We will play against a great rival, but we must focus on doing what we do best and finding that mental and emotional state we need to win.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button