Luis Enrique has refused to talk about completing a treble as his Barcelona side prepares for Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao. Having already sealed the Primera Division title, Barcelona are now just two wins away from winning only the second ever treble in the club’s history. But while much of the attention from outside the club has already turned to the possibility of completing the clean sweep of honors in next week’s Champions League final against Juventus in Berlin, Enrique insists his focus is solely on attempting to lift the Copa del Rey.
“We have maximum enthusiasm for the Copa,” Enrique said, reports Barcelona-based publication Sport. “We don't put any title on top of another. It's not easy to do the double, they are opportunities that pass and it's difficult to have that opportunity.”
“I am not preparing for two finals, there is no other final, I know Juventus because I have been following Italian football since I was at Roma, there is plenty of time next week [for them].”
Barcelona will have the luxury on Saturday of playing the final in their own Camp Nou stadium, after Real Madrid refused to let it be housed at the Bernabeu and neither side could agree on a neutral location. And that will make it an especially emotional occasion for one outgoing Barcelona legend. Xavi already broke down in tears after leaving the Camp Nou pitch for the final time in La Liga last week ahead of the 35-year-old’s departure to Qatar this summer. It will be a slightly different feel for Xavi and his teammates on Saturday, however, with Barcelona handed the away-team dressing room.
But the Catalans will be boosted by the most prolific front line in the history of the Spanish game. After missing the final two La Liga games with injury, Luis Suárez is expected to return to rejoin Lionel Messi and Neymar in an attack that has scored 117 goals in all competitions this season. They trio has also been influential in leading Barcelona past Atlético Madrid and Villarreal in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, of this season’s Copa del Rey. There is incentive, too, to get a victory in order to avenge defeat in last season’s final to Real Madrid.
A win on Saturday would also further cement the club’s place as the most successful side in the history of the Copa del Rey, having already lifted the trophy on 26 occasions. But to do so they will have to get past the club that stands second on the all-time list. Athletic Bilbao have won the trophy 23 times, but, having lost two finals in the last six years to Barcelona, they are without a Copa del Rey, and indeed a trophy of any kind, since 1984.
Athletic began this season in the Champions League, but having lost Ander Herrera in the summer, following on from previous summer departures of Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez, they ended the campaign seventh in La Liga. Still, under the charge of former Barcelona coach, and one-time candidate for the coach’s role at the Camp Nou, Ernesto Valverde, the Basque club have finished the season in encouraging form. A run of seven matches without defeat was enough to claim the final Europa League place in La Liga.
Athletic’s path to the Copa del Rey final, which included wins over Espanyol, Malaga and Celta Vigo, has been fueled by the five goals of their top scorer this season, Aritz Aduriz. For the final, though, they will be missing a quartet of players, with Iker Munian, Ander Iturraspe and Jonás Ramalho still out injured and Óscar de Marcos suspended.
Kickoff time: 3:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
Live stream: Watch ESPN