In what is the final and only chance for silverware for either club, the only question that remains is: who will triumph and who should we back with our sports picks? Will it be the hot favourites Real Madrid, who are trying to salvage whatever pride they have left after a disappointing season by all accounts soccer related, or will it be the serious underdogs Athletic Club, who haven’t beaten Real Madrid since the turn of the millennium?
Real Madrid playing for pride
What began as a season full of assurance and the promise of silverware for Jose Mourinho and his men, somewhere, along the way, got derailed. As Real Madrid ponders what went wrong, the spot in the trophy cabinet they’d probably earmarked for the Champions League trophy (La Liga title hopes came and went by December, let’s face it), and that some poor janitor was obliged to dust daily in anticipation of its imminent arrival, is now desperate to give pride of place to Copa Del Rey.
This is Real Madrid’s last chance for silverware and fans last hope for something to celebrate where their team is concerned. To say it’s not been a year to celebrate is an understatement. Real pretty much gift wrapped the La Liga title by Christmas – Barcelona graciously accepted. Buggered their Champions League bid with a lackluster effort against Borussia Dortmund that sent the Bundesliga side into the final – Borussia Dortmund didn’t kick up a fuss. You get the gist.
Needless to say, in spite of all these disappointments, Real Madrid goes into Copa Del Rey final action against Athletic Club, firmly installed as the favourites. Odds makers at William Hill have them priced at -225 to win outright –something for Real fans to sink their teeth into. As well, a 2-1 score to Real is trading at a best price of +700 while a 2-0 score is tipped at +800 and a 1-0 score or a 1-1 regulation draw is tipped at +850 (the draw result overall is going for +320).
Real Madrid boast a 25-6-5 mark (16-2-0 at home) on the season, with 81 points, ten points adrift of title winners Barcelona, ahead of Copa Del Rey. They are undefeated in their last 14 domestic fixtures (both at home and away), 12 wins and two draws. During this run, they scored aplenty and conceded almost every time save for two clean sheets. Problems on defense have been the bane of Mourinho’s tenure at Real. This season was no exception.
Athletic Club growing in strength and confidence
Athletic Club is cruising to a third place finish in La Liga. Though there are still a couple of rounds left to be decided, 13 points separate them from of Real Sociedad and Valencia (fourth and fifth respectively), and so they’ve got it practically sewed up. That is a marked improvement from last season’s tenth placed finish. A sign of Athletic Club turning a significant corner in Spanish football and, perhaps, even setting itself up as a potential challenger to the Barca-Real duopoly next season.
A Copa Del Rey victory would certainly be taken as such a gauntlet throwing achievement, and odds makers are selling it at a rather tempting +500 price tag. More tempting soccer odds can be found in periphery markets with Athletic winning 2-1 at +1600 and 1-0 at +1800. A 3-1 or 3-2 score is at an outrageous +4000 at William Hill.
Now before one goes rushing to the ticket window, it’s worth noting that Athletic Club haven’t beaten their cross-town rivals since the turn of the millennium. Such a deflating run speaks to a lack of belief and a psychological issue that can’t be accounted for by any strategy or tactical failing or depth and quality on the bench. Why, last month’s preview of this derby is case-and-point, a 2-1 victory by Real Madrid.
Soccer Verdict: Law of averages says all streaks and records are meant to be broken. It’s just a matter of time. Of course, Real fans are desperately hoping this is not such a time. The idea that Real would lose their last hope for silverware to their arch rivals and a side they’ve dominated for eons would be just adding insult to injury. But maybe Athletic Club wants to party like its 1999. If Real Madrid plays not to lose this match and Athletic Club plays to win it, then perhaps Athletic Club will finally have its day. May the better Madrid side win!Soccer Free Picks – Athletic Club to win 3-2