Following a disappointing defeat to Real Madrid in El Classic, Barcelona have a chance to win one of the remaining two trophies this season as they face an old foe in Athletic Club in the Copa Del Rey final.
The last time Football Club Barcelona and Athletic Club faced off, Ronald Koeman’s side were indubitably the superior side in the encounter. The score line failed to do justice for how well the Catalan side truly played, however, thanks to a sumptuous free-kick from Lionel Messi and a goal from Antoine Griezmann, the Garnet and Blue made amends for their defeat several days prior.
Heading into Saturday night’s Copa del Rey final, both sides find themselves in starkly different form. In La Liga, Barcelona had their 19-game unbeaten run painfully snapped by Real Madrid. This defeat also put an end to Barça’s 9-game away winning streak, one which will go down in history as the third-longest ever recorded by the club.
Ever since the turn of the year, the Blaugrana have won 13 of their subsequent fifteen games, a run they will look to replicate in the home run this season.
As for the Basque club, they could never have pictured themselves in such deplorable form. In the 14 matches since their 2-1 loss in the Nou Camp, they have won a mere four matches, lost twice and drawn the remaining right. The honeymoon period with Marcelino Garcia, which saw them win five on the bounce, came to a brutal end. The most hurtful result of the lot came against Real Sociedad in the final of last season’s tournament, and the game against the Blaugrana offers itself as a chance for vindication.
Given that Athletic is likely to keep a deep block, limiting spaces to the maximum of their ability, then the Garnet and Blue will need more of an attacking presence. It is therefore advisable that Ronald Koeman supplants his beloved 3-5-2 system — a change which was eventually going to happen —, and revert to the classic 3-4-3.
Antoine Griezmann is expected to start in the right wing while Ousmane Dembele starts at the left wing of the attack. Messi, is expected to occupy the CF position though he might take up a free role as the game goes on.
Alba and Dest are expected to start from the wings in midfield while Pedri and Sergio Busquets occupy the central positions.
Though the green light has been given to Gerrard Pique, he's not expected to start in defense today. Frenkie De Jong might be used as a libero while Clement Lenglet and Ronald Araujo occupy the other two positions.
See illustration below:
Having succumbed to defeat in each of their must-win ties this season, the game offers not that much to go on for Barca. Both sides are on a redemption quest. This will be a question of who wants it more. Who is willing to fight tooth and nail up until the last second. The 2-3 Super Copa defeat demonstrated just how much thick skin is a necessity in these kinds of games, and Barca will need to show much of the same if they want to get the Copa Del Rey title back to the Camp Nou.
We predict a 3-1 victory in favor of the Catalan side. Drop your comments below.
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