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How will Barcelona line up against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey Final?

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It’s title time

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona are in Seville to finish preparations for the 2021 Copa del Rey Final against Athletic Bilbao, looking to win their first trophy of the season and avenge the loss in the Spanish Supercup against the same opponent back in January.

Even though the loss in El Clásico didn’t destroy Barça’s chances in La Liga, this is definitely their best shot at a title this season. It’s only one game, and Barça have already had some memorable matches in this year’s Spanish Cup. To finish an amazing campaign full of great games without the trophy would be a huge disappointment, so Barça will be really hungry for a win.

This will be the fourth meeting in four months between the two teams in 2021 alone and Athletic were really tough to play against for the Blaugrana in the previous three, and despite having a few key players potentially unavailable through injury they will no doubt still be a very difficult opponent, and manager Marcelino has beaten Barça in the Copa Final before, back in 2019 with Valencia.

Ronald Koeman’s team selection has been a topic of many debates this season, and with a game of this magnitude it will be very interesting to see which starting XI and formation he goes with. This is our prediction:


Defense

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

For the first time all season Koeman has plenty of healthy options to choose from in defense. Every central defender and full-back is fit to play, so this will be purely about form and preference.

Sergiño Dest struggled in El Clásico and was subbed off at halftime, and the change to a back four with Óscar Mingueza at right-back clearly improved the team. Mingueza struggled defensively against Vinícius Júnior last weekend but was good going forward, and he might be rewarded for his goal in Madrid with a start here. Sergi Roberto is back, however, and he might be the surprise name in the XI.

Clément Lenglet and Jordi Alba will start on the left side of the back four, and the big question is whether or not Gerard Piqué replaces Ronald Araujo in the starting lineup. Piqué didn’t play in El Clásico but had a full week of training ahead of this one, so don’t be surprised to see him start in a big final.

Midfield

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

If Koeman does switch to a back four, then the midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie De Jong and Pedri will no doubt play together again. They were very good in the second half of the Clásico as a unit and De Jong’s late runs into the box are a huge part of the attacking setup that was missed while the Dutchman played as a center-back.

Ilaix Moriba has an outside chance of starting thanks to his impressive performances, but the young man will almost definitely be used as an impact substitute in the second half.

Attack

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Antoine Griezmann was dropped from the starting lineup against Real Madrid but came on for Dest at halftime and had an important contribution for Barça’s goal in that game, and given he scored the two goals in the Supercup defeat to Bilbao in January it is hard to see the Frenchman on the bench for this one.

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembélé simply cannot be dropped at the moment, but it will be interesting to see how Dembélé does back on the wing if Koeman does choose the 4-3-3 as the formation for Saturday which would move Messi to the false nine role. Ousmane is always a threat on the flanks but also looks very dangerous as a central striker, and that’s where he’s played the most lately. How quickly he can adjust back to a wing role could be crucial to Barça’s offensive output.


POSSIBLE XI: Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Messi, Griezmann (4-3-3)

How do you think Barcelona should line up against Athletic? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!