Copa Del Rey is a prestigious tournament in the history of Spanish football. Despite the fact that Barcelona has dominated the competition since its inception, any team can triumph on any given day because of the knockout pressure, unlike league tournaments. Barcelona and Athletic Club will go head to head in the second leg of the quarterfinal on Thursday at Camp Nou. Both clubs are incomparable when it comes to consistency since Barcelona are top of the league at the moment with 48 points and Athletic Club are lagging behind at 8th with a mere 31 points.
Barcelona may not have won the most La Liga titles in history, but the Catalan giants have lifted the Copa Del Rey trophy, a record, 27 times, and are the defending champions of this prestigious tournament. They beat Athletic Club in the final last year with 3 to 1 and will be looking forward to dominating Los Leones(the Lions) yet again.
Barcelona is already leading the race in the quarterfinal with a 2-1 win over Athletic in the first leg at San Mames Stadium. With the individual strength and depth in the squad and the kind of form they have been in, Barca does not have much to worry about and will be easily through to the semifinal.
However, Athletic Club posted a major upset earlier this season when they beat Barcelona in Supercopa De Espana with an aggregate scoreline of 5-1, in a two-legged cup title. But it can be argued that Team Barcelona had a shaky start to the 2015/16 campaign, but they have settled in well since then.
Barcelona Manager, Luis Enrique, has retained the tika-taka style of football at the club that he inherited from his predecessor, Pep Guardiola, and has induced a little bit of counter striking mindedness since introducing players like Ivan Rakitic and Arda Turan in the lineup.
If Blaugranas play their natural game and do what they are best at, they will cruise to the semifinals without much hassle. With the likes of Neymar, Suarez, and Messi in the front line, it can be a nightmare for any opponent in the world. Neymar is top of the chart with nine assists to his name already while the Uruguayan, Suarez, is leading the goalscoring sheet with eighteen goals in La Liga. Adding Messi’s inform return to the squad completes the lethal forward combination of Enrique’s side.
If these three players combine well at the front, it can become a gruesome task for Bilbao to take anything back from the match except a crying heart.
Bilbao, as a club, has a special place in its heart for Copa Del Rey, winning the tournament 23 times, second to Barcelona only, since its inception. The Club reserves the honor of winning the very first Copa Trophy in 1903 and then the second one in 1904, successively, while, standing runners-up in the third and the fourth season.
Athletic Club might not be the best out there when it comes to consistent performances in La Liga, but beating Barcelona to Supercopa De Espana earlier this year and challenging them in the final of Copa last season is a living testimony to the threat they pose in knockout games.
Bilbao can make life difficult for Barcelona in this fixture with their star striker Aritz Aduriz, who has netted 25 times this season in 34 games in all competitions. The Spaniard pulled off a hat-trick against Barcelona in Supercopa finale, outperforming one of the world’s best defense and winning the first trophy of the season for Athletic. He is the only real threat Barcelona need to be dealing with if they want to go further in the cup tournament.