By Pat Johnston
The curtain call for prime time European club soccer in will be the Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. The May 25, 10 PM local time kick off at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid will feature two trophy less teams that are both very deserving of silverware from this season’s campaign.
Pep Guardiola will step down after this match and conclude the most successful four-year stint for one of the world’s most prestigious clubs. Having won everything there is to win during his reign, and at least twice at that, it can only be assumed that his players will want to send him out in the manner with which he has become accustomed thru his brief tenure, with a title and a trophy.
It is amazing that this is mighty Barcelona’s last chance to make it through an up to date barren season. The misfortune of a Champion’s League capitulation to eventual champion Chelsea and a rise in the play of perennial rival Real Madrid has brought them to the brink of what could be classified as the most disappointing season in recent memory.
But there is so much more to be considered than just the window of 2011-12 when viewing this side. They have been a sensation and have confirmed the ascendant position of “Tiki Taka” as the most effective and attractive way for the game to be played. This team of great talent and stars has been a trailblazer in establishing a style of play that is being mimicked across the globe.
Hoisting the King’s Cup would certainly be a deserved prize for such a glorious team.
Across from them will be the rising star of Spanish Futbol. Athletic Bilbao made a brave decision and hired the enigmatic Marcelo Bielsa to guide them this year. A side largely comprised of local Basque Region players that had been known as the direct to goal playing side of La Liga, Madman Bielsa has transformed Athletic into one of the most exhilarating and entertaining sides of the season. Bielsa’s future is uncertain, as he has not extended his contract past this season.
With a fair representation of their own star players and a high tempo, high energy approach, Bilbao went into the Europa league relatively unknown and proceeded to announce themselves ready for the big stage with a comprehensive thrashing of English giants Manchester United in both legs of a home and home series. They continued on to reach the final in that competition only to fall to the very team whose ground they will play on tomorrow to attempt to obtain some silverware in what has been a long barren spell for the proud club.
The two teams met in this same final in 2009 with the Catalonians humbling their Basque rivals 4-1.
Regardless of the outcome, this match will mark the end of an era for what has been the modern game’s brightest burning beacon of the beautiful game. And it could also be the conclusion of what was looking to be the emergence of another rising star whose lustre could also be seen around the world.
There is much surrounding this match but it is a foregone conclusion that the 90 minutes (or more) in this contest will speak for itself and is a testimonial to two of Europe’s truly great sides.
The Tango will be in play at the Euro 2012 this summer and you can have an official ball.
Cristiano Ronaldo is all you need to find goals but is he enough to bring Euro glory? ON SALE
The Germany away jersey is a rare find and something every fan should have in the collection.
Spain has been on top of world since winning Euro 2008. Show your support for the team.
Holland is always a force at the Euro's and have cool away jerseys like this one.
Show your passion for the Euro with the official Euro Football Hat.
The Czech Republic has the talent to do well at Euro 2012.
Poland is one of the co-host of Euro2012 and hope that home field will help them go far.
Les Bleus want to regain European glory since last winning in 2000.
Show your love for Euro 2012 this summer with an officially licensed Euro 2012 T-Shirt.