Marcelino hails history making Athletic Bilbao as they prepare for two Copa del Rey finals in 14 days

By Sports Desk March 05, 2021

Marcelino lauded Athletic Bilbao, who will contest two Copa del Rey finals within a fortnight after overcoming Levante on Thursday.

Athletic saw off Levante 2-1 in extra time and 3-2 on aggregate to set up a showdown with LaLiga giants Barcelona in the Copa del Rey decider next month.

Supercopa de Espana champions after upstaging Barca in January, Athletic reached last season's Copa final but, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they are yet to play it – the match against their rivals Real Sociedad set for April 3.

Athletic are now gearing up for two finals in the space of 14 days next month, with a clash against Barca scheduled for April 17.

"These players have made Athletic Club history and sometimes that only happens once in a lifetime," Athletic head coach Marcelino said.

"They had to make the most of the moment and they did so."

Alex Berenguer's deflected, extra-time winner sealed Athletic's progress to back-to-back finals and saw them equal Real Madrid on 39 appearances in Copa del Rey deciders.

It completed a turnaround for the 23-time Copa winners, with Raul Garcia's penalty having cancelled out Roger Marti's opener.

"We are going to take it step by step and enjoy today at least," Raul Garcia added.

"I am very happy because of all the work behind this and hopefully it will be a historic year.

"It's an honour to fight alongside this group of friends.

"We have a lot of confidence in each other, always help each other and that's what is giving us the results."

Athletic and Barca will play their ninth Copa final – the most-contested fixture in the competition's history.

In fact, Athletic will become in the first team to play two Copa del Rey deciders in the same month.

Related items

  • England jump to third in FIFA rankings as record-breaking Italy stay fifth England jump to third in FIFA rankings as record-breaking Italy stay fifth

    European champions Italy are on a world record 37-game unbeaten streak, but they remain lodged at number five in the FIFA rankings.

    The world governing body published its new list on Thursday and the only change in the top five saw England jump to third, nudging France down to fourth.

    England were runners-up to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, losing on penalties at Wembley after a 1-1 draw, and two wins and a draw from World Cup qualifiers in September have seen Gareth Southgate's team edge ahead of Les Bleus.

    It is the first time since 2012 that England have reached the top three, and third place remains the highest position they have achieved in the rankings.

    Didier Deschamps' France could only manage two draws and a win in this month's international break, while Italy were held by Bulgaria and Switzerland before landing a 5-0 victory over Lithuania.

    Italy have been a roaring success under the leadership of Roberto Mancini, who inherited a team that failed to qualify for the last World Cup and had plummeted to 21st in FIFA's rankings.

    They set the record for the most games unbeaten at international level during their run of September games, staying in control as leaders of World Cup European qualifying Group C.

    With FIFA's rankings offering significant weighting to World Cup tournament performance, Italy could make a significant leap should their strong form under coach Mancini continue into the Qatar 2022 finals.

    Belgium remain top of the FIFA list, with Brazil in second. Copa America winners Argentina stay sixth.

     

  • Anelka fears star-packed PSG could face Champions League group-stage exit Anelka fears star-packed PSG could face Champions League group-stage exit

    Nicolas Anelka fired a warning that darker days could lie ahead after Paris Saint-Germain fell flat against Club Brugge despite fielding Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in the starting line-up.

    The disappointment of a 1-1 draw in Belgium was compounded by an ankle injury sustained by Mbappe that forced the France forward off early in the second half.

    PSG were out-shot 16-9 by Club Brugge, with Messi having three attempts but proving unable to mark his 150th Champions League appearance with what would have been a 121st goal in the competition.

    Messi had never previously played against a Belgian side in the competition, scoring against teams from all 17 other nations he has faced. The closest he came was when he struck the crossbar in the 29th minute.

    Neymar did not take a shot, while Mbappe had only one attempt before being substituted.

    "It is the PSG that we do not want to see," Anelka said, speaking to French broadcaster RMC Sport.

    "Nothing. There was nothing, except for the first 15 minutes. But apart from that, there was no intensity. We did not see anything offensively, it will be complicated."

    The star attacking trio may take time to become a cohesive threat, given playing together is so very new, but head coach Mauricio Pochettino will be expected to return PSG to winning ways.

    Manchester City visit Paris on September 28, and Anelka is already worried about the Parisians' prospects of finishing in the top two in Group A.

    "If they play like that, it will not be possible," said former PSG and City striker Anelka.

    The result on Wednesday evening means Messi has gone four consecutive Champions League games without enjoying a win (D2 L2). Only between March 2006 and February 2007 has he gone longer without a victory in the competition, then experiencing a run of five with Barcelona around the outset of his career.

    Pochettino saw the performance of his team rather differently to Anelka's viewpoint.

    "The problem today wasn't our three attackers," Pochettino said. "We just had to be more solid in both penalty areas but I'm happy with the defensive performance of our attackers."

    The PSG boss defended Messi's performance, saying of the former Barcelona captain: "When you don't win, people try to put the focus on the less positive aspects.

    "But I'm happy with his performance in terms of his spirit and attitude but also in terms of his adaptation to the team. It is clear that none of us is happy today as here at PSG we want to win every game and then also play well."

  • Goretzka signs new long-term Bayern deal Goretzka signs new long-term Bayern deal

    Germany international Leon Goretzka has signed a new long-term contract with Bayern Munich.

    The 26-year-old's future had been the subject of speculation, as his previous deal was due to expire next June.

    Goretzka will be staying with the Bundesliga champions after agreeing a new contract until June 2026.

    The midfielder told the club's official website: "We've won everything there is to win over the past three years. But what would be even better than winning titles is confirming and repeating these successes.

    "We want to build on this in the coming years. The team, the club and the environment are not just highly professional, but also familiar.

    "This mixture is one of the things that guarantees success at this club. I'm very happy to be extending my contract until 2026."

    Goretzka joined the Bavarian giants from Schalke in 2018 and has won three Bundesliga titles, the Champions League and the DFB Pokal twice.

    He has also lifted the DFL Supercup three times, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2020.

    Goretzka has scored 25 goals in 118 games for Bayern and put pen to paper on the back of a 3-0 Champions League win at Barcelona on Tuesday.

    Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn said: "It's crucial for the development of FC Bayern that we keep our top performers long term.

    "To be successful as a club, we need players who are permanently motivated - and Leon Goretzka doesn't need to be told about motivation. He always wants to improve and has the ambition to shape an era at FC Bayern.

    "This contract extension is also a sign Leon is convinced we’ll continue to be as successful in the future as we have been in the past."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.