Barça duty-bound to win, Alavés dreaming of historic triumph
It's a while now since Barcelona overtook Athletic Club as Spain's 'cup kings'. For many years, it used to be said that the Copa del Rey was a tournament whose final was played by Athletic and one other, and was generally won by the men from Bilbao. Well, these days exactly the same applies to Barça, who already boasted a terrific record in the Copa beforehand, but nowadays sit top of the pile and add to their unequalled haul with regularity. In total, they have 28 trophy wins from 38 finals. It's their competition. But despite that, there is little excitement about tonight's occasion among their fans. Real Madrid's league title, coupled with the imminent possibility of another European crown for Los Blancos, has tempered that.
Alavés out to banish memories of Dortmund disappointment
The mood couldn't be more different in Vitoria. Alavés are making their first appearance in the showpiece clash. They're by no means a club lacking in history, but they'd never previously reached the cup final. 25,000 vitorianos are due in Madrid, only 19,000 of which with tickets. For many, it's an opportunity to banish the demons of that UEFA Cup final against Liverpool, when a golden own goal brought a 5-4 defeat and a heartbreaking ending to a wonderful game. Alavés deserved that trophy. It left the feeling that football owed them one. Today they'll seek to call in that debt, with a compact side crafted by Mauricio Pellegrino in which Fernando Pacheco, Theo Hernández, Marcos Llorente and Víctor Camarasa have excelled.
Copa del Rey finalists go into clash in differing moods
Barça come into it without Luis Suárez, but with Leo Messi, Neymar and Co. That includes Jasper Cillessen, who plays in goal as part of the in-vogue policy of fielding the sub keeper in the cup, final and all. The match is Luis Enrique's swansong as boss, after a tenure of highs and lows in which he has managed the last vestiges of the Guardiola era. Barça are the better side, of course, but the strength of feeling of the two teams differs. For the Catalans, it's a Copa del Rey that represents a consolation prize after a season in which Real have had the upper hand. For Alavés, it's a chance for the greatest triumph in their history. All against the backdrop of a final farewell to the Calderón. It's a final that'll be remembered.
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