Futbol Club Barcelona, who have won more Spanish Cups than any other club, won their 27th title at the Camp Nou after beating Athletic Club Bilbao 1-3. This is a review of the historic campaign that finished with nine wins in nine matches.

For the most part, it looked like the round of 32 match between Barcelona and lowly third division side Huesca was going to be easy. However, as we have seen in the many upsets throughout the competition's history, like Alcorcón 4-0 Real Madrid in recent memory, nothing is ever certain in football, let alone knockout tournaments. However, after Ivan Rakitic curled a lovely free kick into the top left corner, Iniesta and Pedro struck again before the break, ensuring the Catalans had all but booked their tickets for the next round. A deflected shot from Rafinha was the icing on the cake, but more importantly this game will be remembered as the day Andrés Iniesta made his return after being sidelined for six weeks after straining his calf in October’s El Clásico defeat. He scored once and assisted twice, and then delivered these somewhat prophetic words after the match:

“What's important is that the players who are in the squad are well equipped to play because titles aren't won by just five or six, but by a whole team.”

With the exception of Iniesta, the second leg was played mainly by reserve players. Adama Traoré scored his first goal for the first team, Pedro scored a first half hat-trick, and an army of youth-team players made their first team debuts, contributing to a monumental 12-1 aggregate scoreline. The Aragonese side were eliminated, and the next stop was Valencian bottom-half dwellers Elche.

This first leg may now seem like an afterthought, a footnote in a fantastic season for the Catalans, but at the time, it was anything but. In the days after Barcelona’s defeat to David Moyes’ La Real, Barcelona were in absolute chaos: Carles Puyol left his position at the club, Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta was sacked, Luis Enrique’s job was in jeopardy after a training ground bust-up with Messi who then followed Chelsea on Instagram. The then questioned trio of Messi-Suárez-Neymar each scored once before the interval. Neymar and Jordi Alba scored to ensure safe passage to the quarterfinals, where they would play either Real Madrid or Atlético Madrid. The 5-0 win gave Barça, and MSN especially, some much needed confidence for the weekend’s La Liga contest vs. Atlético, where the trio each scored once to clinch three points. The second leg again saw key players rested along with a delightful free kick from Jérémy Mathieu, and a splendid display ended with an aggregate 9-0 scoreline.

After disposing of Elche, it was time to face the first real heavyweights in the competition: Atlético Madrid. Their memories of Spanish Cup success were fresher than the Catalans, having won it in 2013, and after defeating their local rivals in the previous round, it seemed like the Colchoneros were destined to repeat their success. And they just might have made their way to the final that day, had Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini and Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior never been born. The two tore apart Atleti’s seemingly impenetrable defense in two wildly entertaining legs. The first leg however, saw Diego Simeone’s side put in an intense and organized shift, giving them a genuine chance to progress. Luis Suárez missed a glorious chance nine minutes after the interval, but this was the Messi show, and he was going to get his goal one way or another. Expected to curl his free kick into Jan Oblak's area, Messi passed it into the box where it got to Sergio Busquets. Juanfran, having been preoccupied with Gerard Piqué, lost his man and thus hooked Busquets, resulting in a penalty. Messi was set to take the penalty in the 84th minute, but having recently had mixed results from the spot, fans held their breath to see if La Pulga would convert. Jan Oblak jumped left to save the initial shot, but Messi buried the rebound into the right corner, and Barcelona went to the Vicente Calderón after having played, in my opinion, their most thrilling game of the season.

The second leg wasn’t going to be a walk in the park either. Fernando Torres immediately levelled the aggregate score with a low strike from 20 yards out, but then MSN showed its teeth, and Messi linked up with Suárez to put Neymar through. Bizarrely, referee Jesus Gil Manzano called a penalty on Javier Mascherano for bringing down Juanfran, even though it was neither a foul nor was it inside the area. Nevertheless, Raúl Garcia gave the home side the lead again, but not until another controversial goal, where Atlético players urged Manzano to give another penalty after Jordi Alba seemingly palmed the ball, but Manzano refused, Alba raced on and in an effort of superhuman speed, tapped the assist to Neymar who equalized, after a sensational pass from Messi. If the first leg was the most tense of the season, the second was the most chaotic. Atlético’s captain Gabi was sent off for dissent in the tunnel, Arda Turan threw his boot at the ref and Alba was hit by the linesman’s flag, but while Barcelona did not have Guardiola-levels of possession, they were devastating on the counter, and Neymar’s second goal plus a Mario Suárez red saw the Catalans secure their passage to the semifinals.

Barcelona faced Villarreal in the semis, and despite pressing El Submarino Amarillo deep into their own half, they did not score until Luis Suárez stole an errant pass and deftly laid it off to Messi who finished minutes before the break, but a long distance effort from Trigueros equalized for the Valencians. Thankfully, goals from Iniesta and Piqué in the second half put the blaugranas in a favorable position to reach the final. The first leg saw Barcelona miss half a dozen chances, none more so than after Mateo Musacchio handled the ball inside the area and Messi allowed Neymar to take the spot-kick, only for him to miss, having his effort saved by Sergio Asenjo. They had to wait until March 4 to book their place in the final. An out-of-form Neymar scored a brace and Luis Suárez scored a goal. Tomas Pina, after injuring Busquets with a nasty tackle, was rightly sent off after a harsh challenge on Neymar. The only consolation the home fans at El Madrigal got was a lone goal, scored by none other than La Masia product and former Barcelona player Jonathan Dos Santos.

Meanwhile, the final stop for the trophy was when Athletic Bilbao disposed of Segunda División B team Alcoyano thanks to two Borja Viguera strikes. In the last 16, Bilbao faced top-half side Celta Vigo. A 4-2 win at the Balaídos was enough to knock the Galician side out, despite a 0-2 loss at the new San Mamés. The next stop was Andalusia, where Athletic Club clashed with Málaga. After a goalless draw at La Rosaleda, a second-half strike from Aritz Aduriz ended Los Boquerones and led the Basque side to the semifinals, where they would face Barcelona’s city rivals, Espanyol. After drawing at new San Mamés thanks to an Aduriz goal on his 34th birthday, Los Leones traveled to Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, where strikes from Aduriz and Xabier Etxeita eliminated the pesky Periquitos from the competition, ending the possibility of an all-Catalan final.

In the following weeks, after countless negotiations, the Spanish Football Federation decided the Camp Nou would host the Copa del Rey final. Despite both clubs wanting to play the final at the Santiago Bernabéu, and a petition from local businesses in Madrid, hoping to capitalize on the €30 million that visitors were predicted to spend, the Real Madrid board rejected the proposal as soon as they were approached. Representatives of the Catalan and Basque side were then forced to meet the Federation (RFEF) to reach a final decision. Valencia’s Mestalla and Sevilla’s Benito Villamarin were suggested, but it came down to either Bilbao’s new San Mamés or Barcelona’s Camp Nou. The latter was chosen by a 27-17 majority. Since the announcement, the prospect of the Spanish anthem, as well as King Felipe VI, being whistled by both Catalan and Basque supporters became a favorite talking point in the Madrid-based media. As a result, many Spanish politicians and even the La Liga president went a step further and threatened to suspend the game, then evacuate the stadium if the anthem was drowned out by jeering from both sets of supporters, as it happened in the 2012 final when the two sides met in the Vicente Calderón Stadium in Madrid. “If there are whistles, I will suspend the final,” said La Liga president Javier Tebas. In the end, the hymn was whistled at and it caused unrest to those who cannot respect freedom of speech, benefitting outlets that aim to solely sell newspapers.

The first time Barcelona and Athletic met this season was on September 13, where Neymar came off the bench to combine beautifully with Messi for a brace to seal a home win. In February, the Catalans defeated the Basques 5-2 at the new San Mamés in a thrilling game.

Xavi arrived at La Masia de Can Planes as an 11-year old, and he has worked his way up from the farmhouse to the first team. Playing his final match at the Camp Nou for Barcelona as a substitute, he watched his team open a 0-2 lead as Leo Messi struck the first with a goal that, if you put every glowing adjective in the English language into one sentence to describe it, it would still be an understatement. A goal scored with the determination of a soldier, the elegance of a tango dancer, and the pinpoint accuracy of a sniper. A little more than 10 minutes later, Neymar scored the second after great combination play between Rakitic, Messi and Suárez. In the second half, the team settled for the two-goal lead before the Argentinian genius scored another to completely kill the opponent’s chances. Still, the youngster Iñaki Williams tested the Catalans’ defense whenever on the ball, hitting the crossbar in the first half and scoring Bilbao’s consolation goal late in the final minutes.

In the end the result was never in question, and culés were delighted to see their two captains Xavi and Iniesta lifting the trophy together after superb performances. Barcelona sealed a remarkable cup campaign winning all of their matches convincingly in what is already a historic season. Luis Enrique’s side face Juventus this Saturday and the club could become the first in history to win two trebles.

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Zach Lowry is a Grup 14 collaborator, you can follow him on Twitter.