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In the Copa del Rey final: Bilbao dreams of its first title in 40 years

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In the Copa del Rey final: Bilbao dreams of its first title in 40 years

As of: March 1, 2024 12:21 p.m

Athletic Bilbao are in the Spanish Cup final and could win a title for the first time since 1984. In the league, the Basques have their sights set on the Champions League, and the highs should continue against FC Barcelona.

There are anniversaries and anniversaries that nobody really has and certainly nobody wants to celebrate. Although Athletic Bilbao still fondly remembers the year 1984, when the club from the Basque Country won the Spanish championship and cup double under coach Javier Clemente, they are also painfully aware that that was 40 years ago is. Apart from winning the artificially inflated Super Cup in Saudi Arabia in 2021, there has been nothing to celebrate since then.

Copa del Rey, semi-final arrow right 27th matchday arrow right

Im Finale of the Copa del Rey

The club and its supporters are longing for great success. Because Athletic is a big number in Spain. Since the Primera División was founded in 1928, the club has been in the top division without interruption, making it the only team alongside Real Madrid and FC Barcelona that has never had to be relegated.

Now it could work with a title. Because the “Lions” are in the final of the Spanish Cup. On Wednesday (February 29, 2024) they won the semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid surprisingly clearly 3-0 (2-0). The “Red-Whites” had already won the first leg at the beginning of February (1-0). On April 6th, coach Ernesto Valverde’s team will face Real Mallorca in the final in Seville. The team is the favorite there, as they recently had a clear 4-0 win in the league against the club from the holiday island.

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Brothers Williams shoot Bilbao to victory

The focus on Wednesday was once again the brothers Inaki and Nico Williams, who initiated the victory with their goals. Inaki gave Bilbao the lead in the 13th minute after an assist from his brother. Shortly before half-time, the siblings’ interaction was successful again: This time Nico scored from close range after preparatory work by Inaki (42′). Gorka Guruzeta (61st) then made the final decision. The riots surrounding the game were less pleasant. Before kick-off, hooligans attacked Athletic fans from Madrid and later also attacked police officers in front of the stadium.

In the league now against Barcelona

The Williams brothers had already taken Athletic to the semi-finals. In the quarter-finals they scored the two decisive goals in the 4-2 win against FC Barcelona in extra time; after 90 minutes the score was 2-2.

The same FC Barcelona is now coming to Bilbao for the league duel on Sunday. It’s a top game. Barca is third in the table, Athletic is in fifth place, the team is only three points short of a Champions Leaue place.

Still only Basques wanted

This is all very remarkable as the proud club still has the philosophy and policy of fielding only Basque players. If you’re not a true Basque, you must have at least played for a Basque club as a teenager. Since the area is clear, the club focuses primarily on its own youth work. In Spain they say: Players are not bought by Bilbao, they are made there.

Right winger Inaki Williams, whose parents come from Ghana, was born in Bilbao. The 29-year-old has been playing for Athletic or the farm team CD Baskonia since 2012, which once again shows the great bond between the club and its players. Left winger Nico is eight younger, was born in Pamplona and initially played there for CA Osasuna. Against Barcelona, ​​however, Bilbao will have to make do without its winger and Inaki without his brother Nico, as he is serving a yellow-red suspension.

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In the league and cup, the brothers scored 17 goals together, the most successful goalscorer being center forward Gorka Guruzeta, who netted twelve times. By the way, he comes from nearby San Sebastian.

Valverde in Bilbao for the third time

The club’s philosophy also applies to the coaches, all of whom come either from the Basque Country or from abroad. Jupp Heynckes was on the line from 1992 to 1994. Although Valverde was not born in the region, he began his career at Deportivo Alavés, a club from Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country. After 2003 to 2005 and 2013 to 2017, Valverde is coach at Atheltic for the third time; from 2017 to 2020, the 60-year-old looked after their next opponent, FC Barcelona.

On the wave of euphoria

Against him, Bilbao wants to ride the wave of euphoria and land a win. These would be important points in the fight for a Champions League place. Bilbao have played there twice so far, but neither made it past the group stage in 1998/99 nor 2014/15.

But above all, the city is now looking forward to the cup final. How clear is a sentence once said by former professional Julen Guerrero, who played for Bilbao from 1982 to 2006 (24 years!): “A single title with Athletic is worth as much as ten titles with Real Madrid.”

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