The curtains have been drawn across Europe’s major leagues but not Serie A, whose grand finale is this weekend. The big sides that completed the league have massive cup finals to decide. Aston Villa take FA Cup defending champions Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund will want to give Jurgen Klopp the perfect send-off by beating Wolfsburg in German Cup final, Barcelona are chasing treble and are relishing the prospect of turning Athletic Bilbao inside-out to win the Spanish Cup, and in France, League Two side Auxerre will dare to dream against the might Paris Saint-Germain. In the heat of all this, there will be one game to draw more tears – and probably more stones and flares – than the cup finals: Napoli vs Lazio in the penultimate battle for the final Champions League spot.
ARSENAL 2-2 VILLA
Arsene Wenger will become the most successful manager in the history of the world’s oldest cup competition if he can mastermind a 12th honour for Arsenal against Aston Villa. However, to do this, he will have to navigate the kind of confidence that has seen even Prince William confess he is already nervous ahead of the Cup final at Wembley Stadium. The royal, like most Villa fans, are hoping that a season that was so painful for much of the time before Tim Sherwood joined could end with a final test of lollipop in the Cup.
Danny Welbeck is out still. He is the only injury concern for Wenger at a time even Mikel Arteta is back in full training. We have no new injuries from the weekend. For Villa, Shay Given is fit for Aston Villa’s first FA Cup final in 15 years after returning to training following a groin injury.The goalkeeper was a doubt after missing the Premier League finale as Villa lost 1-0 to Burnley on Sunday. Aly Cissokho (groin), Kieran Richardson (calf) and Jores Okore (knee) have also trained but are doubtful for the showpiece match. Ciaran Clark (knee) is out.
Victory for Arsenal will also mean a sixth trophy for Wenger – one more than his old adversary Alex Ferguson. Arsenal will become only the fourth club to lift the FA Cup in successive years twice if they win on Saturday. The Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and
Tottenham Hotspur are the other clubs to have achieved the feat.
But to stop Arsenal, Villa should have picked a leaf from Hull City’s defeat. The Tigers missed a host of chances in regular time, then in extra time, before they were finally buried in post-match shoot-outs. Sherwood has showed he is a manager to reckon with and could take Villa to Europa League with victory. However, I see a draw in this game, with Villa winning in extra time or after.
Dortmund 3-1 wolfburg
If Villa fans think they want to cap a torrid season with a Cup win, they probably have not taken a look at Borussia Dortmund. The German giants were the subject of much jeers and taunts from own fans, leading senior players into pleas after games. Dortmund just could not win and were at the bottom of the 18-team strong Bundesliga by January before Jurgen Klopp turned the season around. Dortmund finished seventh and now hope to bring down the curtain on Klopp’s seven years as head coach by beating VfL Wolfsburg to German Cup final.
The 47-year-old announced in April he would be leaving at the end of the season with Thomas Tuchel will replace him after the final.
However, unlike Aston Villa, VfL Wolfsburg are no pushovers. They were the only side to offer a pretence of challenge to champions Bayern Munich after beating them twice. Wolfsburg went on to finish second. But Dortmund are in are breathing a different air from Wolfsburg at the moment. The yellow sub-marines want to win the cup for the fourth time in the club’s history to send Klopp off in style along with ex-captain Sebastian Kehl, who will retire after the game.
Copa DEl Rey
Barcelona 3-0 Bilbao
The two most successful clubs in Copa del Ray history come head to head with Athletic Bilbao hoping to be third time lucky in the cup final against Barcelona. Bilbao have won Copa del Rey 23 times despite being the only Spanish side that only fields players born in the Busque side of Spain.
Bilbao will be looking to avenge losses to Barcelona in the 2009 and 2012 finals when the Catalan club took its record tally to 26 titles. But to do this, they will be stopping Luis Enrique’s very unlikely titles surge. The former Barca player, only in his first season in charge, has already won the league title, and awaits Champions League final to seal his massive comeback from January when he stared the axe in the face.
To beat Barca, Bilbao will have to stop the Barca trident of South American gems in Leonel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr.
Coupe De france
PSG 2-1 Auxerre
This looks like a mismatched final. Ligue 2 side AJ Auxerre and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain meet at Stade de France on Saturday evening in the 98th Coupe de France final, French football’s most prestigious domestic cup competition. By and large, this should be a routine win for Laurent Blanc’s men, except that PSG are under pressure to pick up the trophy to become the first team in French football history to complete a domestic treble. Victory would also seal their ninth Coupe de France, which would move them to within one of record holders Olympique de Marseille.
My money on PSG.
Napoli 2-2 Lazio
SS Lazio fans went on rampage last weekend after losing second place to bitter city rivals AS Roma and they will be breathing blood tomorrow if they go down to Napoli. However, there is a good thing for Lazio: they can afford to play a draw and still qualify for Champions League while Napoli must win. Wait, not only win, but also hope that Rafael Benitez, who will leave the club after this game, will be in shape to hanldle his final game. Benitez is on the verge of taking over from Carlo Ancelotti at Santiago Bernabeu. This makes the task harder for Napoli. Lazio have this game to lose but I don’t see them failing.
*Seaman is a Liverpool fan