Athletic Club coach Ernesto Valverde is thrilled at his team's achievement in reaching the Copa del Rey final for the third time in the last seven years. The Basque outfit won 2-0 at Espanyol last night to progress 3-1 on aggregate and set up a meeting with Barcelona in the cup showdown on 30 May.
"We knew that Espanyol could complicate our lives as they did in the first leg," Valverde told the Spanish press. "My players played at a very high level and we played a perfect game. It wasn't easy to play away from home in a semi-final, but my players did a great job."
Los Leones have lifted the Copa 23 times but will take on a Barça side who have won this competition a record 26 times. Athletic lost 5-2 at home to Barça in the league last month. "It's obvious that Barça are favourites," Valverde said. "But we didn't care who we would face in the final as long as we were there.
"Barça have a very strong team and they are favourites. Our chances of winning are slim but it's our duty to give our all in the final. This will be my first final with Athletic and it's going to be extraordinary. I know what it means for this club, for the city, and we are going to fight for this title."
Valverde, whose side were eliminated in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League by Torino last month, hopes Athletic's latest success will help them climb up the Spanish La Liga standings. Athletic are tenth in the Spanish top flight, with eight wins from 25 games.
"We are in a difficult situation in the league," Valverde said. "But to be in a final transmits hope and that will give us an extra motivation. "I hope it will allow us to clinch more points in the league and be more competitive."
Athletic have won their last two league games and take on La Liga leaders Real Madrid on Saturday at the San Mames stadium.