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Barca aims for 2nd title of season vs. Bilbao in Copa final

28 May 2015, 17:16

Barcelona - Barcelona will vie for the second of three possible titles this season when it hosts Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey on Saturday.

Also read: Sevilla hold onto Europa crown

In his first season in charge, head coach Luis Enrique has guided Barcelona to the Spanish league title, and can now add two more major titles, if they beat Bilbao and then Juventus a week later in the Champions League final on June 6.

The Copa del Rey final is pitting the two teams with the most titles in competition history against each other.

Bilbao, which has won 23 cups despite only fielding players born in the Basque Country or neighboring northern provinces, will be looking to avenge losses to Barcelona in the 2009 and 2012 finals when the Catalan club took its record tally to 26 titles.

"We know how difficult it will be to win all three titles, and we have two very tough games left," Barcelona left back Jordi Alba said on Thursday. "I have friends who think the treble in near, but we know it will be very difficult. Nobody can think it will be easy. It would be a shame to get distracted by other games still to come."

Here are some more things to know about the final:

Barca's big 3

Bilbao's mission is as clear as it is daunting: Stop Barcelona's big three.

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have scored a combined 117 goals in all competitions this season.

Neymar leads Barcelona in the cup with six goals, and the Brazil striker scored three times in Barcelona's two wins over Bilbao in the league this campaign.

Messi will be looking to score in his third straight cup final against Bilbao and add to his 56 goals in all competitions this season.

Suarez is expected back after missing the last two league matches after injuring a muscle in his left leg against Bayern Munich in their second-leg Champions League semifinal.

Suarez trained with the team on Wednesday but is still waiting for the team's medical staff to clear him to play.

Bilbao will get a boost with defenders Aymeric Laporte and Xabi Etxeita also returning to training after recovering from injuries.

Fond Farewells?

Xavi Hernandez will have the chance to play his last match at Camp Nou and add to his Barcelona club milestone of 765 appearances.

Barcelona already gave Xavi a sending-off tribute after the Spanish league finale when he lifted his record 23rd trophy for the club, but another acknowledgment should be in store for the midfield mastermind's 17 seasons before he heads to Qatar.

Another key player for Barcelona during the last seven seasons may also be playing his last match in burgundy and blue.

Right back Dani Alves has yet to agree to a new deal with his contract expiring at the end of June.

"It's unknown whether I will continue at the club," Dani Alves said this week. "I'm only thinking about enjoying these last two finals and playing the best I can."

Reasons to believe

Bilbao's chances of springing the upset at Barcelona's home grounds rest heavily on the performances of veteran Aritz Aduriz and rising talent Inaki Williams.

At 34 years old, Aduriz is enjoying the best season of his career with a team-high 26 goals.

The striker, who excels at scoring with headers, is supported by Williams. The speedy 20 year old is having a breakout season and the team's resurgence this spring coincided with coach Ernesto Valverde giving him a starting role.

"My thing is breaking away from my mark, getting into open space," Williams said. "I won't be overwhelmed (by the final). We want to take the match to them, make it so they can't get comfortable, so that they don't play their best. They are not invincible."

- AP


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