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Guardiola aims to end Barca reign with win
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 25 - 05 - 2012

Barcelona can cap four illustrious years under Pep Guardiola with a 14th trophy when it plays Athletic Bilbao in Friday's Copa del Rey final.
The match at Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon stadium will be Guardiola's last in charge of the team, ending an unprecedented period of success for Barcelona since the former player took charge in 2008.
The 41-year-old Guardiola will be looking to finish the way he started, as a 4-1 cup victory over Athletic three years ago provided the first prize for his trophy cabinet.
Ready to hand over the coaching duties to his assistant and good friend Tito Vilanova, Guardiola will look at the game as an opportunity to cap a season that started well but finished poorly. Barcelona hasn't played a meaningful game in one month after it lost to eventual Champions League winner Chelsea in the semifinals, just days after losing to Real Madrid to surrender its three-year hold on the Spanish league.
“He's got that intense look about him,” Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said of Guardiola.
A record 26th domestic cup will at least send Guardiola out on a high and would deliver a fourth trophy this campaign after winning the Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup.
Barcelona remains without injured striker David Villa and its defense is also depleted as Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves are all missing.
“His departure is going to be dramatic for me,” defender Gerard Pique said. “He'll leave a void but with Tito will continue on and we'll do well. It's normal for eras to end in football.”
Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa could also be seeing his term coming to an end.
Bielsa hasn't said whether he will continue next season or not, and the Argentine coach has refused to budge on the question until after the cup final.
Like Barcelona, Bilbao risks closing the season on a low, having lost 3-0 to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final. The Basque club will have welcomed a long layoff following the longest season of any Spanish club playing in Europe. The pair of teams have combined to win the competition 48 times, and the matchup promises to provide unrelenting, attacking football.


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