Much of the discussion during the lead up to Friday's 2012 Copa Del Rey final has centered around what feels like a lost season for FC Barcelona.
However, while this past season has not ended in the way many envisioned it would for the Catalan club, their opponent in the Copa Del Rey final may not stand much of a chance of stealing away a final run at this cup. Athletic Bilbao has suffered through their poorest form of play in the five games prior to today's match and will likely continue those hardships against a side as talented as Barcelona.
Since a 1-0 La Liga win over Racing Santander on April 22, Los Leones have failed to score a goal or record a point over four league matches. Bilbao has been outscored 8-0, including 3-0 losses to Real Madrid and Levante and a 2-0 defeat to Real Zaragoza.
Their current form doesn't give Los Leones much hope for stopping a Barcelona team intent on finishing this season with a better taste in their mouth. The end of what could have been a historic season for Barcelona has finished with mostly heartbreak.
Real Madrid took La Liga by a comfortable eight points despite Barcelona losing just three league matches and obtaining a plus-85 goal differential. An April 21 loss to Real Madrid put Barcelona's title hopes in serious doubt.
More heartbreak was soon to follow on the European stage.
After watching Chelsea go up 1-0 during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal at Stamford Bridge, Barcelona returned to Camp Nou and scored the second leg's first two goals. However, the resilent Blues managed to score two away goals in response, and a blitzkrieg of shots at the Chelsea goal late wasn't enough for Barcelona to escape a 3-2 overall defeat.
Who will win today's Copa Del Rey?
Chelsea moved on to the Champions League final, where the Blues beat Bayern Munich on penalty kicks in Munich. Barcelona was out, left to wonder what could have been had they advanced to another European final.
After failing to accomplish many of the team's goals, Barcelona will look to the Copa Del Rey as a chance to salvage something from their otherwise lost season. Heartbreaks can't come in threes, can they?
There's also the dynamic of Barcelona head coach Pep Guardiola leaving the side this summer, which only adds to the urgency in Barcelona to send their decorated boss out with a cup. Even if the Copa Del Rey remains one of Spain's least important trophies, a win today would help ease a portion of the pain that helped force up Guardiola in the first place.
When the dust finally settles on Friday, it's hard to envision Athletic Bilbao overcoming their own recent struggles to defeat such a historically talented side. Leo Messi and company have more than enough firepower to ensure a second win over Athletic Bilbao in as many months.
While Barcelona has faced its share of heartbreak over the last two months, the story of Guardiola's last match as Barcelona boss should end on a much better note.