Injury-hit Barcelona looking to win first of three trophiesMay 11th, 2009 - 7:08 pm ICT by IANS
Valencia (Spain), May 11 (DPA) Barcelona are in sight of their first of three trophies Wednesday, in the final of the Spanish King’s Cup against unfancied Athletic Bilbao.
On Sunday Barca were just three minutes away from clinching the league title, but were finally held to a 3-3 draw by Villarreal.
They need just one more point from their last three league games to claim the title.
Then comes the small matter of the Champions League final against holders Manchester United, in Rome on May 27.
Never before has a Spanish team pulled off the “treble” of league, cup and Champions - not even the legendary Real Madrid side of the late 1950s.
The King’s Cup final will be staged in Valencia’s old Estadio Mestalla, which is due to be demolished next year. Around 20,000 fans from each team are expected to make the trip, many of them without tickets.
Barca coach Josep Guardiola will have to get by without injury victims Rafa Marquez, Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry - and without Eric Abidal, sent off against Villarreal.
Guardiola will probably stick by reserve goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto, who has played in all the cup matches so far. He is also likely to bring in teenager Bojan Krkic to replace Iniesta.
Guardiola said Sunday night, after the Villarreal draw, that “we will have to pick ourselves up quickly…in order to prepare Wednesday’s final.”
He suggested that not being able to celebrate the league title Sunday could turn out to be a good thing.
“Winning the league today might have distracted the players before Wednesday,” he said.
Barca are hot favourites for the cup, but Bilbao are keen to pull off a surprise.
They have not been in the final since 1985, and no less than 18,000 fans turned up at their pre-journey training session Sunday.
Coach Joaquin Caparros said afterwards that “we are going to be at the centre of world football…For sure, we will be competitive opponents for them.”
Bilbao will certainly be fresher than Barca, who have played twice a week all season.
On Saturday Caparros rested all of his first-teamers against Betis, who were nonetheless beaten 1-0.
Barcelona have won the cup a record 24 times, Bilbao have won it 23 times, the last time in 1984 - against the Barcelona of Diego Maradona.
That 1984 final finished with an ugly brawl between both sets of players, and Maradona signed for Italian giants Napoli shortly afterwards.
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Tags: andres iniesta, athletic bilbao, barca, caparros, eric abidal, estadio mestalla, goalkeeper, jose manuel, krkic, league games, manchester united, spanish king, spanish team, thierry henry, three minutes, training session, treble, valencia spain, villarreal, world football