MADRID, April 16 (Xinhua) — FC Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman on Friday implied that his job could be on the line if his side fail to beat Athletic Club Bilbao in Saturday’s Copa del Rey final in the Estadio de la Cartuja in Seville.
It will be the second time the two teams have met in a final in 2021 and the fourth time they have played each other this year, with Barca edging the two league meetings, 3-2 in Bilbao and 2-1 in the Camp Nou. However, Athletic surprised Barca to beat Koeman’s side 3-2 in the final of the Spanish Supercup and lift the first trophy of the year.
Last weekend saw Barca’s options of winning La Liga suffer a setback when they lost 2-1 away to Real Madrid and in his press conference ahead of Saturday’s final, Koeman admitted the pressure was on.
“When they ask about your future after one defeat following 19 consecutive league games without, it shows the pressure with which you live in this club… If I win I know what can happen and if I lose, too, but it is strange to always answer these questions,” said Koeman.
The Barca coach said his side had “improved since the Super Cup final.”
“We played 19 league games without losing until last week, when we lost an important one. I never think about my future before a game like this, but about choosing the best team,” he explained.
Koeman said his side would have to improve “without the ball” in the cup final and confirmed that central defender Gerard Pique was available for selection.
“Pique can play tomorrow; he has been training for more than before the match against Madrid,” he confirmed.
Athletic’s big doubt over Saturday’s game is the fitness of captain Iker Muniain, who was clearly limping on his side’s arrival in Seville on Thursday. The Basque side play their second final in two weeks and look to avoid a second disappointment after their narrow 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad on April 3rd.
“What happened in the last final is history and now we have to think about the 90 minutes tomorrow. We are optimistic and we think we know why we were below our best in that previous final and we will make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Athletic coach Marcelino Garcia Toral.
“We needed a big physical and mental effort to get to this final and we have to be at our best tomorrow – only if we are at our best will be able to win, that’s all there is to it,” he added.