Final – Attack on the King’s
By David, bettingexpert.com | Edited
At Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon a rendezvous of Basque and Catalan Spaniards eager to vent their anger at the Madrid-based Spanish aristocracy in the midst of what is an increasingly dire economical situation for the country. But there is football to be played as well and both contenders for this cup will be keen to recover the pieces of a season that had them go close to making it successful yet did not.
Copa del Rey: Repent for season’s sins
Barcelona were of course involved in the run-in for the Liga but Real Madrid had the upper hand. The 91 points they finished with were incredibly not enough as their eternal rivals reached a record-breaking 100 points. Mourinho did a good job and his mind games must have played a big part in stressing out the usually serene Guardiola, pushing him for a sabbatical he claims he needs so much.
The feeling of the captain being close to abandoning the ship impacted on their Champions League semifinal against Chelsea. Like their Spanish counterparts Real they exited the competition at that stage although widely tipped for making it to the end and facing Mourinho in Munich.
For a team like Barcelona, built for success and geared for it, semifinals and second places are never close enough. Theirs has not been a season to remember, apart from Messi’s 50 goals in the Liga and 14 in the Champions League, so their motivations should be high for this cup final.
Athletic Bilbao are not used to success and it did come along as somewhat of a surprise how Bielsa kicked in and pushed this team to what seemed like a promising partnership. Ultimately, in an attempt to pursue the Europa League they gave too much ground to Liga teams in the running for a European place and finished tenth in the table. Not a very flattering position for what they had been building all throughout the season.
Things had not started out very well in Bilbao as players sought to metabolize Bielsa’s attacking game. Yet when all the movements ‘el Loco’ requested were seeping into the team’s game they were quickly tipped for success, at least in making it into Europe next season. They failed on that front and in the end also capitulated miserably in the Europa League final against quasi-homonymous Atletico Madrid losing 3-0.
It is clear how each seek completeness through this Copa final. For Bilbao and Bielsa it would be quite a success to have taken back home from Madrid a trophy against Barcelona. Their league position still somewhat cancels out the Europa League final. On the other hand, Guardiola would definitely want to leave the club on a positive note and not a trophy-less season. Even with the Copa in their cabinet they would still have underachieved this year, let alone without it.
Athletic – Barcelona: Bielsa balancing numbers
What plays in favour of Guardiola in this encounter is that he has never lost a game in head-to-head matches with Athletic since being appointed Barca coach. In 13 matches he has managed 9 victories and 4 draws. 14 different Blaugrana players scored in these encounters with Messi notching eight from the total of 27 goals.
With Bielsa leading the pack this season Bilbao managed one draw and a defeat. The latter was at the Nou Camp and clearly Bilbao were distracted by Europa League commitments. In the first meeting, however, they gave Barca a run for their money and only a Messi strike in injury time secured a draw for Guardiola. It was an intense match which Bilbao might have deserved to win. Was that just a postponement to a more significant victory over Guardiola?
Spanish Cup final 2012: Guardiola or Bielsa?
The Bilbao manager had been touted to be the man most suited to take over from Guardiola when Pep leaves after this match. Club boss Rosell has apparently handed over the reins to Guardiola’s second in command already though. However, it is commonplace not to destabilize other teams by declaring their manager will be moving before a season ends. Bielsa may still be the number one candidate to lead Barca into a brighter future.
In the Argentine manager Barca fans would see a continuation of what is the quest for attacking football that is effective and entertains. Whether Bielsa can manage to keep the fine balances in order is yet to be seen but Friday night will be an additional chance for him to prove he is capable of driving the luxurious and powerful car that is Barca.
Full-backs Dani Alves and Abidal will be ruled out for Barcelona so Bielsa’s attacking game should focus on putting pressure on those flanks. Of course, the final move would entail putting the ball into the box for Llorente’s towering presence to have an impact on what is generally considered a weak defence in terms of aerial abilities. Pique will be in charge of holding on to his teammate in the Spanish national team.
It is sides which have attacked Barcelona that often surprised them most. That is, excluding Chelsea in the semifinals of course. In Spain there will be no such tactics though and we should witness an entertaining game of football with both teams looking for the goals early on as they keep faith to the attacking philosophies that were at the base of what they sought to build this season.
Verdict: Over 2.5
Both managers believe in the attacking game and will not be making any exceptions just because this is a final. This is the chance for each to recover their seasons from what might look like a year of disappointments and the best they can do is keep faith with their offensive game.
You must be logged in to post a comment! Sign up + or log in in the top right corner.