Marcelo Bielsa. PHOTO: WWW.ATHLETIC-CLUB.NET

Marcelo Bielsa held a prematch press conference this Thursday ahead of the Copa del Rey Final. The Athletic Club manager praised FC Barcelona by saying that the Catalans are “the best team in the world” even though he doesn’t consider Guardiola’s side to be favourites for tomorrow’s match. The manager believes that the matches played between the two sides this year “established the setting and the differences between the two teams.”

Second final in 16 days

“We’re very excited,” said Bielsa. This will be the second final that Athletic Club play this season, and the fans are looked ahead to the clash with a lot of “optimism.” After losing in the Europa League Final to Atlético Madrid, the Argentine considers that “being able to play another final, so close to the one we lost, is an excellent opportunity.”

Bielsa has trained his team, not seeking to boost their morale, to focus “on the dynamic and intensity of play.” The manager considers himself fortunate because he’s “invited to be part of a match that stimulates the footballing world.”

Strategy on the pitch

For the Cup Final, the Athletic Club manager analysed the matches his team have played against Barça. He studied “why we lost” and “why we didn’t win.” Bielsa believes that, in order to win the Cup, “it’s vital every player is close to his full potential.” He’ll try a collective strategy that will “make the difference” in favour of Athletic Club.

Total support

Bielsa said that he still hasn’t decided on a starting line-up. However, the whole Athletic Club team made the trip to Madrid: “I asked Iraola and Gurpegui and they told me that they wanted all their team-mates to come. I only followed the orders of this command. For me, it’s a difficult situation because you can hurt a player that has made the trip but doesn’t end up playing.”

Athletic Club's desire

Iraola said that his team have the “desire to win the title” and this Friday they will have “the perfect opportunity.” On Barça, he said the Catalan team “haven’t changed” in four years but that, with Athletic’s new players this year, “the distance between the two teams isn’t as great.”