On April 3, Real Sociedad were crowned Copa del Rey winners after beating Athletic 1-0 in a dramatic all-Basque derby.

On April 3, Real Sociedad were crowned Copa del Rey winners after beating Athletic 1-0 in a dramatic all-Basque derby.

Unfortunately for them, they will hold the title for just two weeks with Athletic facing Barcelona in this season’s final on Saturday – and revenge is on the menu.

But who holds the edge with Los Leones seeking redemption or will Barça bounce back from their Clásico defeat in style?

It’s clear that Barcelona have some wounds to lick. After an impressive run of form that saw them win eight of their last nine games, they were humbled by Real Madrid with the title race blown wide open.

Referees were blamed, Messi was criticised in potentially his last ever Clásico and goodwill that Ronald Koeman had slowly built up quickly ebbed away in his childish post-match comments.

However that shouldn’t detract from their progress since the turn of the year, and silverware could be a real boost for not only the manager and players – but what it means for the club going forward.

Athletic will have different ideas.

The famous side went 37 years without silverware and with a golden opportunity to change that, were denied doing so again by their fierce rivals; leaving a horrible taste in their mouths.

Head coach Marcelino spoke about “feeling great disappointment” on his shoulders, while boyhood fan Iker Muniain revealed experiencing his “darkest day”. There’s no better motivation than wanting to put things right.

Tactics

The question for Barcelona and Koeman is; do you stick with the three-back formation or twist with a more conventional midfield three?


A change in system afforded attacking freedom for Sergiño Dest and Jordi Alba, while Lionel Messi could drop deep and dictate play in dangerous areas.

But we believe Koeman could revert back to 4-3-3 after their defeat against Real Madrid in an attempt to switch things up, and shock Athletic.

Instead of building through their wing backs, Messi will combine with Antoine Griezmann and Pedri to create openings – freeing Jordi Alba and Ousmane Dembélé in behind.

Athletic, however, are far more predictable under Marcelino and will set up in their traditional 4-4-2.

They are hard running, hard pressing and will look to disrupt Barcelona at every opportunity with combative midfield play through Mikel Vesga and Unai Lopez.

But they are equally capable of creating through Iker Muniain and Álex Berenguer in wide areas, who like to drift inside and connect with striker Iñaki Williams and Raul García.

Young goalkeeper Unai Simón has impressed this season but he will need his centre backs – Iñigo Martínez and Yeray – at their best to contain a free-flowing attack.

Two different sides at two different stage in their cycles; but both equally in need of silverware.

Will it be the relief of a long wait for Athletic, who can piece their hearts together after losing to fierce rivals Real Sociedad?

Or Barcelona, who can draw a line under some difficult times and look to the future under their new manager.

Either way – expect to be entertained.

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