Valverde relishing Barca clash

Ernesto Valverde says he is relishing the prospect of facing Barcelona when his Athletic Bilbao side take them on in the Copa del Rey final.

The Athletic boss watched his side defeat Espanyol in Wednesday’s semi-final, winning the game 2-0 and 3-1 on aggregate overall, and believes anything can happen against Luis Enrique’s men on May 30.

“It was an extraordinary game against Espanyol but Barca will obviously be favourites in the final,” he told reporters afterwards.

“Even so, we don’t mind who we face because what matters was getting there. Barca have firepower and experience but we will have our own strengths. If we use them anything can happen.

“Being in a final is exciting for our fans. It’s a boost for them and for us. Hopefully they’ll continue giving us their support in the League so that we can become even more competitive.

“I’m sure we’ll take more fans to the game than Barcelona but I don’t want to get into things that concern the board. The more fans we have there the better.”

First-half goals from Aritz Aduriz and Xabier Etxeita settled the game against Espanyol and Valverde reflected on his team’s performance.

“We knew they would make things difficult, just as they did in the first leg, so we needed to make the most of whatever chances we got.

“We had to wait and see whether they felt this was a big chance for them, but when we scored the first the script changed. It put us in a much more favourable position.

“The second goal really encouraged us and after that we had other opportunities to score.”

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