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Barcelona play Copa del Rey final against Athletic de Bilbao

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Posted: Saturday, April 17, 2021. 10:01 am CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Barcelona is playing against the Athletic Club of Bilbao today in the Copa del Rey final at Estadio La Cartuja in Sevilla, Spain.

The game is considered by many to be the match that will decide if Lionel Messi stays at Barcelona or moves on. Messi has not been satisfied at Barcelona because they’ve not put together a highly competitive team and threatened to leave at the end of last season.  Of late, Barcelona had been playing better, but then were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League and just last weekend lost to Real Madrid in El Clásico.

New president Joan Laporta is making all the moves to get Messi to stay, but the club’s star player has not made any public commitment yet.

Should Barcelona lose the Copa del Rey final, Messi might just decide it’s time to move on.

The Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s third option at the beginning of the season. Their priorities have been winning the UEFA Champions League and the Spanish La Liga title. While, La Liga is still an option, after last week’s loss to Real Madrid, they dropped from second to third place behind leaders Atlético Madrid and Real.

Another loss would deflate the most valuable football team in the world.

And it’s not like a loss to Athletic is impossible. The Bilbao club already beat them 3-2 in the Spanish Super Cup in January.

Barcelona and Athletic are the two teams that have won the most Copa del Rey titles. Barcelona has won the tournament 30 times while Athletic has claimed it 23 times. Today is the ninth encounter between the two in the Copa del Rey finals with Barcelona having won six to Athletics’ two.

 For now, Messi is still Barcelona’s frontman. For Athletic, their go-to man is Iñaki Williams.

If Messi goes or not at the end of the season only time will tell. But, according to the media, a loss could also signal the beginning of the end of Ronald Koeman’s career as Barcelona coach. Koeman dismissed the media’s comments on the matter saying that Laporta has shown him support. He said that not every time a team loses, the president has to give a vote of confidence. Moreover, he said that he has a two-year contract.

As for Athletic, a victory today would be redemption as they lost the COVID-19 delayed 2020 Copa del Rey final, which should have been played last year, against Real Sociedad just two weeks ago. Plus, the last time they won a Copa del Rey was in 1984 against Barcelona.

The match starts at 1:30 this afternoon.

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