Football

Last chance saloon for Enrique

Barca boss aiming to end tenure with third Copa del Rey triumph in three seasons

FINAL
BARCELONA ALAVES

Luis Enrique will take charge of Barcelona for the last time when they take on Alaves in Sunday morning's (Singapore time) Copa del Rey final against Alaves at the Vicente Calderon.

It will also be his final chance of landing a major trophy for the Catalan giants, who this season surrendered the La Liga title to arch-rivals Real Madrid and were knocked out in the Champions League quarter-finals by Juventus.

A victory tomorrow morning will complete a clean sweep of the Copa del Rey in Enrique's three campaigns in charge.

The 47-year-old Spaniard, who refused to rule out a return to the club in the future, said: "It would be a special title.

"I'm happy and more than satisfied for all the years that I've enjoyed with this club.

"I came here to be a leader and I've been one. I'm leaving when I think it's the best time to do it."

SELECTION HEADACHE

Enrique faces a selection headache with both Luis Suarez and Sergi Roberto suspended after being sent-off in a tempestuous semi-final win over Atletico Madrid back in February.

Paco Alcacer is expected to be handed a rare big-game start in Suarez's absence up front, while the Catalan side are hopeful that Javier Mascherano will shrug off a hamstring problem to fill in at right back.

Even without Suarez, Barca still have plenty of firepower to call upon with Lionel Messi set to start his 700th match for club and country, while Neymar has netted in the final in the past two seasons.

Alaves coach Mauricio Pellegrino could also be taking charge of his side for the final time, after a terrific campaign in which they reached their first cup final and finished ninth in their first season back in the top flight after a decade.

The Argentinian, who is linked with Watford, believes Barca have merely come back down to earth, after an "abnormal" run of success over the past decade.

ABNORMAL SEEMS NORMAL

Said Pellegrino: "They have made the abnormal seem normal. For Barca, winning two or three trophies a season is normal.

"They have won so much that now it seems like they haven't had a good season."

Alaves have already shown the damage they can cause to Barca this season.

A shock 2-1 win for the visitors at the Nou Camp in September ultimately cost Enrique's men the three points that separated them from Real in the title race.

However, Alaves also suffered a Barca backlash when the visitors won 6-0 at the Mendizorroza Stadium in February.

"They have the mentality of wanting to win every game. That is what they are used to," said Pellegrino. We need to play a very complete game to stand a chance."

- WIRE SERVICES

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