Copa Del Rey Battle To See Goals
Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona are two games away from claiming a memorable treble this season with Saturday’s Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao offering the chance of domestic double.
Barcelona lifted the league title with a degree of comfort in the final stretch thanks to Real Madrid’s stuttering performances towards the end of the season.
Three points from Barca’s last two games would be enough and duly arrived at the first attempt thanks to a 1-0 win over outgoing champions Atletico and the championship was earned with a game to spare.
Luis Enrique’s side have won 18 of their last 21 games in all competitions with their only defeat over that period a meaningless 3-2 loss in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final tie with Bayern Munich.
The dazzling trio of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi scored an incredible 81 league goals between them as part of a total of 110, while the latter scored all three of Barcelona’s goals in their final two league games and 56 overall.
A poor early season run in which a thin squad was stretched to the limits by competing in the Champions League saw Athletic Bilbao ultimately finish seventh in La Liga, a poor return for a side with realistic ambitions of a top four placing.
Athletic did finish the season strongly, however, and were unbeaten in their last seven lmatches, although goals were a problem throughout the campaign as none of the sides finishing in the division’s top 12 scored fewer than the men from the Basque country and a final goal difference of +1 was telling. Victories over Alcoyano, Celta Vigo, Malaga and Espanyol have seen them progress to the final.
Artiz Aduriz is the club’s top scorer for the season with 24 goals in total while his 18 in La Liga made up over 40 percent of his side’s final tally, while he’s also bagged 10 in his last 11 games.
Enrique is likely to be without one of his golden triumvirate with Suarez set to miss out with a hamstring problem, with Pedro likely to replace the Uruguayan. Barca have no other major injury worries while Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique should all return to the starting XI having been rested for their final league game.
Long-term injury victim Iker Muniain is out for Athletic although he is the only expected absentee for manager Ernesto Valverde, with midfielder Ander Iturraspe set to return to the side having been rested for their 4-0 hammering of Villarreal in the final day of the league season.
Head to Head
Barca won both league meetings between the sides this season and have lost only once in the last 24 clashes with Athletic, who were beaten by the Catalans 3-0 in the 2012 final, with Pedro hitting a brace.
Bilbao are the second-most successful side in Copa Del Rey history – behind Barcelona, typically enough, but it would take a brave punter to take the huge 14/1 on the Basques winning their first since 1984 in 90 minutes here.
There’s not much to be said for value at 2/9 on Enrique’s side but both sides scoring at 5/6 looks worth a punt, while both scoring in a Barca win is well-priced at 6/4. Pedro also looks a good bet at evens to score anytime against a side he’s enjoyed facing in the past.