Cup Weekend: Can underdogs win in Spain, Germany, Scotland?
Background photo:Tobi 87, CC-BY-SA 3.0
Manchester City proved to the rest of England there’s much work to be done if they’re to ever come anywhere close. Pep Guardiola’s side swept all three domestic titles. The Cityzens couldn’t stop scoring in the FA Cup final. Underdogs like Troy Deeney went from snarl to whimper.
It was a different story in France. Rennes battled broke Paris Saint-Germain’s vice grip on the Cup for the past four seasons. Lazio did the same in Italy after Atalanta knocked off Juventus for them.
With the Cup winners decided in three of Europe’s big five leagues, the focus shifts to La Liga and the Bundesliga. As well, there's a bit of a tilt in Scotland worth a look.
Barcelona, Valencia, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Hearts and Celtic all make cup final appearances today. Three league champions and three also-rans. Can the underdogs have their day?
Copa del Rey
On paper, Valencia is no match for Barcelona but Marcelino’s side is poised to end the season in high-octane fashion. Los Che negotiated Getafe and Sevilla to earn La Liga’s last Champions League spot.
Valencia are seven-time Copa del Rey champions, last wearing the crown in 2008. Sound impressive. The Catalans have hoisted the shiny goblet 30 times. And they’ve got Lionel Messi.
If there’s any team who can stop this ruthless Barca side, it’s Valencia. Los Che valiantly held the Catalans in both league meetings, while scoring thrice. It’s in Valencia to do it again. To get anything from this game, however, they must be up and doing defensively. At the very least they must stop Messi. Maybe if Gabriel Paulista and Moucktar Diakhaby whisper 'Antoine Griezmann' in his ear every time he lines up off their shoulder. Anything for the Kings Cup.
The story of the German top flight cannot be told without touching on Bayern Munich’s intimidating dominance. Although the Bavarians hold the record for most DFB Pokals with 18, they haven’t won it in the last two years.
RB Leipzig is a 10-year-old club with little or no history to compete against Bayern. That will count for little when they step on the pitch. For Leipzig, a win would signify their first major honour as a top-tier side.
Bayern manager Niko Kovac has a lot riding on this game. His job is apparently on the line for failing to make the Bavarians a force in Europe. Interestingly, this competition was the first he won as a manager. Leipzig can care less. They want to do better than their barren draw earlier this month.
On the one hand, Bayern need to stop Timo Werner from scoring. On the other, they'll just sign him if they can't.
With 50 Scottish Premier League titles, 38 Cups, 18 League Cup triumphs and their greatest rival still trying to find firm footing after going through administration, Celtic own Scottish football. Variety is the spice of life, however. That's why any underdog receives huge backing against the Hoops, especially in finals like this.
Hearts are a modest side with a rich history. They’ve won the Cup eight times but remain miles behind Celtic both in achievements and current form. The team from Edinburgh's teeming Gorgie neighbourhood ended their League campaign on a nasty run of seven losses in their last 10. Celtic put in the final boot.
Either way you look at this one, hearts will be broken in the end. It's just a question of whether they'll be upper or lower case?