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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Barca seek winning end to Luis Enrique’s reign

Gerard Pique wants Barcelona to reward outgoing coach Luis Enrique with a ninth trophy of his three - year spell in charge in Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Alaves .

Victory would see Barca lift the Cup for the third straight season under Enrique , but unlike in the past two years it would be Barca’ s only major silverware of the campaign .

The Catalans missed out on La Liga to Real Madrid last weekend and were dumped out of the Champions League at the quarter - final stage by Juventus .

And Pique wants his boss to go out as a winner in the last ever competitive game at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium .

“He is one of the best coaches in the history of the club, ” said the defender.

“He deserves a great final . The best way to leave would be on a high with a trophy and tomorrow is a good opportunity.

“I want him to leave as a winner. ”
However, Enrique himself warned against the threat posed by Alaves as the Basques played a huge role in costing Barca the league with a shock 2 - 1 win at the Camp Nou back in September.

“I have the chance to end my cycle with Barca with another title , but we are facing without doubt the revelation of La Liga this season. ”

Indeed, on a night of goodbyes at the Calderon, Mauricio Pellegrino could also be taking charge of Alaves for the final time with plenty of clubs eyeing the Argentine ’s services .

As well as taking Alaves to their first Copa del Rey final , Pellegrino’ s men finished ninth on their return to the Spanish top flight after a decade in the lower leagues .

“I am very thankful to these boys for the work they have put in , ” said Pellegrino.
“There is not one of our players that doesn ’ t deserve to play the final . ”

– ‘ Historic event ’ –
Whilst Alaves have never reached Spanish football’s showpiece occasion before, they did reach the UEFA Cup final back in 2001.

Liverpool edged a thrilling final 5 - 4 back then and Alaves captain Manu Garcia urged the club’ s fans to revel in the atmosphere as they did 16 years ago in Dortmund.

“This is a historic event ,” he said. “It is a final and we only want to be champions .
“I want to tell the fans to enjoy the day as much as possible.

“As a youngster I experienced Dortmund , I have a lot of memories of that day and I want the fans to go there with their shirts, flags and scarves and be proud of Alaves . ”

Alaves’ quest to make history will be helped by the absence of the suspended Luis Suarez.
Barca also have no natural right - back available with Sergi Roberto also suspended after both players were sent - off in the second leg of a tempestuous semi - final against Atletico Madrid.

However, Pique expects Barca to have the resources to cope.

“We have to face up to that problem . There are players here with the ability to replace them,” he added.

“We are Barca . Whoever plays has to perform. ”

AFP

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