Barcelona after historic cup treble

VALENCIA - Barcelona are planning to win the first of three trophies tomorrow, in the final of the Spanish King's Cup against unfancied Athletic Bilbao.

VALENCIA - Barcelona are planning to win the first of three trophies tomorrow, in the final of the Spanish King's Cup against unfancied Athletic Bilbao.

On Sunday Barca were just three minutes away from clinching the league title, but were finally held to a 3-3 draw by Villarreal.

They need just one more point from their last three league games to claim the title.

Then comes the small matter of the Champions League final against holders Manchester United, in Rome on May 27.

Never before has a Spanish team pulled off the "treble" of league, cup and Champions League - not even the legendary Real Madrid side of the late 1950s.

The King's Cup final will be staged in Valencia's old Estadio Mestalla, which is due to be demolished next year. Around 20000 fans from each team are expected to make the trip, many of them without tickets.

Barca coach Josep Guardiola will have to get by without injury victims Rafa Marquez, Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry - and without Eric Abidal, sent off against Villarreal.

Guardiola will probably stick by reserve goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto, who has played in all the cup matches so far. He is also likely to bring in teenager Bojan Krkic to replace Iniesta.

Guardiola said on Sunday night, after the Villarreal draw, that "we will have to pick ourselves up quickly... in order to prepare for Wednesday's final."

He suggested that not being able to celebrate the league title on Sunday could turn out to be a good thing.

"Winning the league today [Sunday] might have distracted the players before Wednesday."

Bilbao are keen to pull off a surprise. They have not been in the final since 1985, and no less than 18 000 fans turned up at their training session on Sunday.

"We will be competitive opponents for them," coach Joaquin Caparros said afterwards. - Sapa-DPA

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