Home » Featured, La Liga, Latest » Copa del Rey 2012 Final Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona

Pep Guardiola brings the curtain down on four years in the Barcelona hotseat on Friday night when Barca face Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.

Barca take on Bilbao at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium in a showdown that pits the two most successful teams in the competition’s history against each other.

It is also a clash between two sides who will be looking to put recent disappointments behind them, with Barca having surrendered both their Primera Division and Champions League titles over the last few months, while Athletic were beaten Europa League finalists.

However, much of the focus tomorrow night will be on Guardiola and whether Barca can end the 41-year-old’s record-breaking reign with yet more silverware.

Since taking charge in 2008, Guardiola has guided Barca to 13 trophies with the blaugrana winning two Champions League crowns, three La Liga trophies, one Copa del Rey, three Supercopas, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups in just four years.

That stunning run of success started with a Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Bilbao, and Barca’s players would love to finish Guardiola’s tenure in a similar fashion.

Andres Iniesta said: “We will give everything to win the cup and finish these four years with a smile. This is our objective, we aren’t thinking about losing.”

Goalkeeper Jose Pinto added on his club’s website: “The last match will be sad, we have to win to turn that sadness into joy so we can give him a happy send off. I hope it works out this way, we’re motivated. We’re all awaiting that moment.”

In the 2009 final Barca claimed a 4-1 win to clinch a record 25th Copa del Rey crown – two more than Athletic.

Barca know they will have their work cut out to repeat that success at the Vicente Calderon though, with Athletic have impressed massively in their first season under Marcelo Bielsa.

Iniesta added: “It will be a very even match. Athletic play with a lot of intensity and have adapted the ideas of their coach very well. They will demand a lot of us , so we will need to think quickly on the pitch.”

Iniesta, who is looking to win his first Copa final having been injured in 2009 and on the losing side against Real Madrid last season, also warned of the threat posed by his Spain team-mate Fernando Llorente.

“He’s a great player, he’s been getting better every year and when he has a chance to score he takes it,” Iniesta said.

Guardiola, who will be replaced by assistant Tito Vilanova this summer, will be forced into a defensive reshuffle for the final with Carles Puyol, Dani Alves and Eric Abidal all missing, as is striker David Villa.

Athletic coach Bielsa, meanwhile, has named a 26-man squad for the trip to the capital, including Ander Iturraspe and Ander Herrera, who were both struggling with illness earlier this week.

The Europa League final defeat to Atletico was a bitter pill for Athletic to swallow, but midfielder Oscar de Marcos told El Mundo Deportivo: “We’ve learned many things (from the match), we’ve seen what we did badly and analysed the game with the coach. We’ve seen all the mistakes and we hope not to commit them again.

“We’re convinced we can win the Copa. Of course it’s not going to be easy, we know who we are playing against, but we’re not going out thinking we’re going to lose.”

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