Barcelona never stops. The Catalan media is full of a variety of transfer rumors, people within the Blaugrana community regretting Guardiola's departure, David Villa missing the Euro 2012... Am I really the only Cule out there who remembers Barcelona still have a major trophy to play for this Friday?
La Copa Del Rey Is A Major Trophy
Barcelona have won the Copa Del Rey competition 25 times since it was first played back in 1902 - more than any other team in Spain, ahead of Athletic Bilbao (23) and Real Madrid (18). Players such as Johan Cruyff, Di Stefano, Maradona, Ronaldo Nazario or Rivaldo all lifted the trophy during their legendary careers, enhancing the reputation of the King's Cup worldwide.
Despite this fact, people often come to me and ask whether the Copa Del Rey is actually worth the hassle.
Here is your answer:
Jose Mourinho explained recently: "La Copa Del Rey is the least important trophy there is". However, Real Madrid's all-out approach to last year's final or this season's quarter final indicates differently. Would The Special One spend some of his precious at the Camp Nou garage insulting the referee after a match that didn't matter?
Of course not.
Whoever belittles the Copa Del Rey either has a hidden agenda or doesn't understand Spanish football.
The Final Push For Guardiola's Barcelona
Pep Guardiola is ahead of his last challenge as Barcelona coach. The most successful coach in our history deserves a victorious farewell. I am certain the current generation of players will do everything within their power to improve Pep's current record to an even better 14 out of 18 titles since 2008. Leaving the Camp Nou after a defeat is definitely not on his cards.
After yet another long season where Barcelona challenged for every title until the very end, I sense tiredness within our Blaugrana players, coaches and even fans in general. Everyone seems to be more interested in discussing next season or the arrival of new players than finishing this year in style. It really does feel as if our players were already on holiday or preparing the Euro 2012 or Olympic tournaments instead of feeling pressured to win this major trophy.
On the other hand, Athletic Bilbao seem immensely eager to prove they have what it takes to win a major title, especially after their 3-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final a couple of weeks ago. Basque stars such as Fernando Llorente, Javi Martinez or Iker Muniain are simply not prepared to waste this golden chance to bring fresh silverware back to their San Mames stadium.
I anticipate a game where Barcelona takes control of possession for long periods of time and uses speedy one-twos or skilled dribbling to break a well-populated Bilbao defense, who will eagerly await their chance to counterattack with accurate crosses from the wings towards Llorente.
Finals are always tricky but I feel Barcelona have the edge over Bilbao at this moment in time. Having said that, we won't win the match unless we prove we want the victory more than our Basque rivals.
Esperanza Aguirre Threatens To Cancel The Final
Yes, you read that right. And no, I don't blame you for not knowing who that Esperanza Aguirre is.
That lady, who is in fact the President Of Madrid (the area, not the football club), told the media: "If those Catalan and Basque fans decide to whistle from the stands as a protest against the Spanish national anthem, the final should be suspended. We can't allow a minority to offend our Spanish flag or the Spanish King. I am free to say what I think is right as Spain is a country with freedom of speech"
I don't normally get involved in political issues but I must say these words remind me of ancient, dark times many centuries before democracy was even established. Sure, Esperanza Aguirre is entitled to their her opinion but banning fans from expressing theirs is a direct attack on the very same freedom of speech she was arguing about in the first place. Total non-sense.
To be honest, such dictator-like words are enough of a reason for undecided Barcelona and Bilbao fans to at least consider jeering as loudly as their lungs will allow.
It is widely known that many people in Barcelona (Catalunya) or Bilbao (Basque Country) would like to part ways with Spain and become independent in their own right. As a born Catalan though, I can tell you that this feeling is not shared by every single person who lives in Catalunya, as everyone has different backgrounds and view their lives in different ways.
The Catalunya - Spain independence debate really is a deep topic which has been discussed over and over again for many generations now.
As you may imagine, I don't have the ultimate answer to the problem but I will say one thing:
We are all free to have our own opinions and express them in whichever way we want - Sorry Esperanza.
Have Your Say
What did you think of this article?
Do you think Pep Guardiola's Barcelona is ready to beat Athletic Bilbao at this stage of the season?
Can winning La Copa Del Rey be considered a major success?
How do you feel about Esperanza Aguirre's words?
Did I miss out on any important points you would like to share with us?
I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.
Posted by: Francesc Tomàs
Founder and Columnist at www.barcablog.com and ESPN Correspondent
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