Pitchside

FA Cup final or La Liga showdown? The pros and cons

Pitchside

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Football fans will face a major dilemma on Saturday afternoon.

For at 5pm (BST, 6pm CET) there are two huge matches kicking off simultaneously: Arsenal face Hull City in the FA Cup final as the Gunners bid to end their nine-year trophy drought, while in Spain Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have a winner-takes-all clash to finish the Liga season.

If you're Spanish the choice is clear; likewise any Arsenal or Hull fan will plump for the Wembley showpiece.

But for many supporters on the British Isles and - as our Danish blogger Jan Molby explained earlier - huge swathes of Northern Europe, the FA Cup retains its romantic appeal for those weaned on English football while, in general, Arsenal are, well, Arsenal.

So for the neutral, we run down the pros and cons of each match...

1. GOALS

Ultimately it's what the game is about. Between them, Barca and Atletico have scored more than 200 this season; Arsenal and a miserly Hull side have managed just over half that. The Gunners are no slouches in front of goal but, with FA Cup finals usually (but not always) tight, tetchy affairs, expect a lower-scoring game, particularly given Arsenal's tendency to freeze under pressure.

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Atletico and Barca's showdown is sure to be tightly contested, but with two of Europe's top scorers in Diego Costa and Lionel Messi, all the indicators are that it will be a goal-fest.

[COSTA v MESSI: WHO WILL WIN LA LIGA?]

VERDICT: FA Cup 0-1 La Liga

2. DRAMA

Like beauty, dramatic quality is in the eye of the beholder. And for fans more inclined to the English game - i.e. those for whom this is even a topic of debate - the ups and downs of Spanish football can be a bit tiresome.

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Sergio Busquets, pictured, is a drama queen. But we don't like that do we?

If you're weighing up which of these to watch, the sight of grown men diving around like distressed swans, gobbing in each other's ears, and waving imaginary cards may be too much to bear. Yes, George Boyd is likely to start for Hull...

Realistically though, at Wembley any suspense will revolve around the possibility of Arsenal capitulating for the umpteenth time, or some pillock flying a banner over Wembley. Which, as we all know, is a hilarious prospect. The toughest call, but the FA Cup shades it, simply because in such tie-breakers you have to go where Sergio Busquets isn't.

VERDICT: FA Cup 1-1 La Liga

[BLOG: ARSENAL'S BIGGEST COCK-UPS]

3. SCANDAL

The only real potential for scandal between Arsenal and Hull would be if the pre-match hog roast is served at room temperature. English football - particularly in London - is rather genteel these days.

At the Camp Nou, however, we could see all manner of shenanigans: refereeing blunders, flagrant cheating, widespread accusations of a pro-Barca agenda (mimics handcuffs), and - of course - the possibility of crazed racists imitating their forefathers while tossing softfruits at the opposition.

It could get even worse too - as Luis Figo will testify, having once had this pig's head chucked at him during El Clasico. Yikes!

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[This is the actual pig's head that Barca fans threw at Luis Figo in 2002]

VERDICT: FA Cup 1-2 La Liga

4. AMUSEMENT VALUE

If Atletico get a draw La Liga will be won by the unfancied underdog, managed by the fashionable young pretender, breaking up the Clasico duopoly of more than a decade. If Barca win then, well, Barca have won. Again. Yawn. And anyway, the match will likely be settled by a fantastic performance either by a team or an individual. Excellent viewing, yes, but funny? Nah.

[WINNER TAKES ALL IN LIGA]

The FA Cup final has more potential for outright silliness in that, if Arsenal lose, it will probably be the result of some unconscionable error or hilarious twist of fate. The looks on their faces will quench the schadenfreude of many.

And even if Arsenal win, it will be rather amusing to see them prance about North London like they've won the Champions League after a narrow win in a minor cup (oops!) over a small club from Humberside (aah). Grown men will weep, the streets of Islington will be packed from bistro to tofu outlet, and you won't be able to get hold of any organic falafel, anywhere. Blame New Labour.

[ARSENAL TEMPT FATE BY ORGANISING PARADE]

PREDICTION: FA Cup 2-2 La Liga

5. QUALITY

It may be Arsene's favourite word, but there is no contest here. While the Gunners would give Atletico and Barca a run for their money, Hull are a promoted side with a limited playing staff who have done incredibly well to stay in the top flight, let alone reach a final.

[DAVIES TO 'GET UGLY' AGAINST ARSENAL]

The likelihood is that the FA Cup final will either be a Gunners walkover, or an error-strewn upset with Arsenal getting everything but the goal before Lauren Koscielny falls over. Like that one, you know, that signalled The Death Of Arsenal.

Oh, go on then:

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Atletico v Barca, meanwhile, will be a contrast of different but similarly effective styles as the scrappy, aggressive Rojiblancos fight to the death against possession-heavy Barca, fronted by a Lionel Messi who has hit 13 goals in his last 10 matches. Crumbs! And, as we said earlier, Diego Costa isn't bad either. A thrashing in favour of Spain.

FINAL VERDICT: FA Cup 2-3 La Liga

So there you have it. We've crunched the numbers, done the math, scratched our heads and even asked Nigel Farage if he could make up some stats to favour the English but, alas, La Liga wins out.

Sorry chaps, but that whole Messi v Costa thing is a bridge too far for Giroud and HUDDZ.

Whichever of the two matches you do decide to watch, you can follow live text of the other on Eurosport.com. Hurrah for the internet!

FOLLOW ARSENAL v HULL, LIVE AT 5PM ON SATURDAY

FOLLOW BARCELONA v ATLETICO MADRID, LIVE AT 5PM ON SATURDAY

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