Barcelona v Alavés Saturday, 20:30 Live on Sky Sports 2
So close, yet so far. Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid until the last, but Los Merengues simply weren't for turning on the home straight. In the end, the dramatic comeback win over Eibar on the final day was in vain.
Luis Enrique will doubtless look back on what could have been. His side won away at Real, won away at Atlético Madrid, won away at Sevilla, won away at Athletic Club, yet a series of avoidable slip-ups against the league's lesser lights would eventually take their toll. That final run of victories - seven in a row, 28 goals scored - was too little, too late.
They have a chance to salvage something from the season at the Calderón, however, at the end of an impressive run in the Copa del Rey. Barça saw off Athletic, Real Sociedad and Atleti to make Saturday's final, and will be hopeful of giving Enrique a fitting send-off. They'll have to do that without Luis Suárez and Sergi Roberto (both suspended), however, while Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano are both struggling with injuries.
Whatever happens on Saturday, this will go down as a fine season for Alavés. Maurício Pellegrino's men finished a very respectable ninth in La Liga - above sides with far greater spending power - and enchanted their fans with a gritty, gutsy run to the cup final.
True, their path to Saturday's showpiece in Madrid was hardly the most testing: Alavés only face one top-flight opponent en route to the final. But that success, over Celta Vigo in the semi-final, was wildly celebrated in Vitoria-Gasteiz, and for good reason. This is their first ever Copa del Rey final.
Barcelona, unsurprisingly, are overwhelming favourites at 1.18. Their recent form has been compelling and they know their way around a domestic cup final: they've won the last two Copas, beating Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla in the deciders. Even without Suárez, they have the firepower to cause Alavés plenty of problems.
But there's reason to be hopeful for the underdogs. Alavés ended the season with a seven-game unbeaten run, beating the likes of Villarreal, Athletic Club and Celta Vigo. They may have been hammered 6-0 by Barcelona at the Mendizorrotza, but they claimed maximum points from their trip to the Camp Nou back in September, and a similar kind of match - Alavés happy to sit back and wait for chances on the break or at set pieces - would suit them here.
Alavés have kept six clean sheets on route to the final, underlining their defensive solidity. They may not be likely winners, but they may have been a touch underrated at odds of 22.00.
That brings the Asian Handicap market into our thinking. Alavés don't often get thrashed - they've only lost by two clear goals on four occasions this season, two of them against champions Real Madrid - and we like their chances of making life difficult for Barcelona. Alavés +2.0 is available at 2.12.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
It's a Barcelona match, so the overs are short at 1.44. But if you think Alavés can dig in and frustrate the Blaugrana, the unders probably represents the better value at 3.10. Just one of Alavés' last seven games has gone over the 2.5-goal mark, while Barcelona needed extra time to find the net against Sevilla in last year's final.
With Lionel Messi as short as 1.37, we turn to Neymar. The Brazilian has probably had his best season in Europe so far, stepping up to take responsibility time and time again in key moments. He has scored four goals in his last three games, so 1.93 looks a reasonable price.
Recommended Bets Back Alavés +2.0 at2.12 Back Neymar to score at 1.93