Pitchside

Eurosport Roundtable: Will we watch the FA Cup final or the Liga decider?

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Football-loving neutrals across Britain face an agonising choice on Saturday afternoon: do I watch the FA Cup final, or the winner-takes-all La Liga title decider between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou?

The announcement that the Spanish finale would kick-off at 5pm on Saturday - just as Arsenal and Hull kick off at Wembley - prompted groans across the country from fans who have loved every minute of the best Liga title race in decades.

Because how can you turn your back on the FA Cup, which is itself one of those classic sporting showcases that seduces you into loving the sport in the first place?

Of course, if the FA had dug their heels in about making sure that the FA Cup final was still the 3pm, last game of the season that it always used to be in the old days, none of this would have been an issue.

But, unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool fan of one of the four sides in action, or have no access to Sky Sports, or one of the fortunate few who has several TV screens lying around, then Hobson's choice awaits.

We polled our team of sports writers to see what they'll be tuned into - take a look, and add your own choice/explanation in the comments box below.

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Tom Adams (Twitter: @tomEurosport): I didn’t grow up with the final day of the Liga season etched in my calendar. In 1991, as a football-obsessed eight-year-old, I wasn’t reading about Barcelona’s imminent coronation in Match magazine, or enjoying their final game of the season against Real Madrid on TV. I was captivated by Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest, Wembley’s magic and majesty being transmitted across the airwaves, the unmistakable sense of a national event taking place. The FA Cup might have lost some of its allure, but it remains part of the fabric of the country and community which I grew up in. So I’ll be watching the FA Cup final, though mostly because I’ll be at Wembley reporting for work, and it’d be extremely unprofessional to sneakily follow events at Camp Nou on Sopcast while the game’s going on.

Josh Hayward (Twitter: @JoshuaHayward99): I’ve always been particularly indecisive, but the thought of having to choose between watching the FA Cup final or the La Liga decider was almost enough to send me into a meltdown. Fortunately for me, though, my boss decided. I’ve been awarded the honour of covering the final of English football’s most prestigious cup competition, though I’ll certainly have one eye on Barca’s clash with Atletico. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

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Liam Happe (Twitter: @liamhappe): La Liga, a top flight many English fans narrow-mindedly write-off as ‘boring’ and ‘nothing but Barcelona and Real Madrid’, is about to be decided in a winner-takes-all showdown in which Atletico Madrid are the favourites, not a Clasico outfit. At the same time, the FA Cup final is on. The fixture which at one point was the centrepiece of the English football season has since been battered into the ground by an arrogant withdrawal, self-serving fixture switches and constant mockery of the people who obediently pump so much cash into every round of the competition. I may be English, but my freedom of choice means I make decisions for myself on merit – meaning Spain will surely win all day long - BUT, I too will be at Wembley along with Mr. Adams, meaning the evil (work) system has won again.

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Dan Quarrell (Twitter: @Dan_Eurosport): There is no doubt that the Liga decider will see higher quality football from more talented players and that what is on the line is significantly more important. But I will still be primarily watching the FA Cup final in spite of all that because the FA Cup has always been a much-watch for my family, regardless of how far it is perceived to have fallen in the pecking order. With the Champions League final coming up soon I will enjoy one last fix of two Spanish sides going at it on the biggest stage, but first I am intrigued to find out if Arsenal really will contrive to stumble once again with silverware at stake. The fact that Arsene Wenger appears to have already declared that he will stay at the club makes it all the more critical that his side do not somehow manage to fail against a Hull side that have an improbable dream to chase. If the FA Cup final is decided early, well, that's what the remote control is for.

Alex Chick (Twitter: @alex_eurosport): I can’t help but feel like I’m doing something dastardly, but it has to be Barcelona-Atleti. The Cup final meant more than any other match during my childhood, it’s supposed to be the glorious culmination of the English season and a great televisual happening. So I’m going to feel the angry glares of Keith Houchen and Lawrie Sanchez, Des Lynam and Jimmy Hill as I spurn the faithful old FA Cup and enjoy a fling with the younger, sexier Latin lover next door. But honestly – a winner-takes-all Liga decider between two of the best teams in Europe? You’d be loco not to. It’s up for grabs now...

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Toby Keel (Still believes that Twitter is a noise made in the mornings by small, winged animals): The first time in my life I didn't bother watching the FA Cup final was 2008, the year Portsmouth played Cardiff. It felt like bunking off school, slightly naughty and cheeky while at the same time being a victimless crime. And best of all, there was, surprisingly, no guilt. I'd fully expected to be pestered by the demons of my FA Cup memories, stretching back to a hazy recollection of Everton v Watford in 1984, Ian Rush knocking over the camera in the goal in 1986, Gary Mabbutt's knee a year later, Dave Beasant's save the year after that, the Crystal Palace v Manchester United epic in 1990… you get the picture. These are fond childhood memories, like rose-tinted remembrances of the old local cinema that closed down. But this is the modern world: the new multiplex is far better than that crummy old flea pit ever was, just as Barcelona v Atletico Madrid in a head-to-head title decider is far better than Arsenal v Hull would ever be. The world's moved on – get over it. And yes, I realise the irony in that statement coming from the one of the only two people on this page who doesn't 'do' Twitter.

Sean Fay (NSFW Twitter: @Sean_Fay): My 10-year-old self would be appalled but I'll be watching the Liga decider and the decision is not even close. What made the FA Cup final so special in the past was that it was whole day of build-up followed by a live match – both of which were rare treats. Now we get that four of five times a week. The Liga decider on the other hand is a more significant, evenly matched game with much better talent on display. Final day title deciders like this barely ever come around but the FA Cup final will be back again next year – hopefully with a more exciting line-up than Arsenal and Hull. I'll keep an eye on goings on at Wembley of course but this weekend I'll be 'Living La Liga Loca.'

Reda Maher (Twitter: @Reda_Eurosport): Absolute no brainer for me. The FA Cup’s decline was signalled by Manchester United’s millennium decision to withdraw from it in favour of taking part a glorified FIFA friendly tournament, and has been hastened by the constant fielding of weakened teams by the Premier League’s leading lights. While I have a soft spot for both clubs – on one hand having lived in North East London for half my adult life, on the other by sympathising with Ahmed Elmohammady and Gedo – it is clear to anyone who doesn’t live in a UKIP-tinged bubble that the more important game is in Spain. I will be wearing my sponsorless 2004-05 Atletico shirt, but will not be eating a banana.

Marcus Foley (Twitter: @mmjfoley): Being an indecisive type, I refuse to make a decision. Therefore, I will put together some kind of dual screen concoction so that I can keep an eye on both. However, the practicalities of such an arrangement will render my attempts to watch– or, more pertinently, enjoy - either adequately redundant. Ludicrous I know. But, it would be completely remiss of me as a football supporter to miss a match of the scale of Barca-Atleti but, at the same time, lament Britain’s showpiece fixture’s waning allure and then sack it off - I feel honour bound to watch the FA Cup final; obliged by stubbornness. Of course, this sorry episode could have been avoided had the FA Cup final taken its rightful place at 15:00. I suppose things could be worse:

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Desmond Kane (Despises Twitter due to the 140-character limit): How did it come to this? It is a question the frazzled organisers of the FA Cup must be asking when they study Saturday's football digest. The coast seemed clear a week after the Premier League concluded, and then along comes a pesky Liga decider in Spain to devalue a tournament already undermined by the television millions coursing through English football's upper tier. Unless you are a devout Arsenal fan or a haggard Hull City follower, you have to wonder what is the true value of the FA Cup? Arsene Wenger's Arsenal contest the final, but can't really win. The only way the FA Cup final becomes a story is if they lose to extend their nine-year run without a trophy. That would prompt widespread guffawing, but Barcelona's joust with Atletico Madrid is much more fascinating because an entire league season comes down to a solitary match. A league campaign settled on one game between two world-class sides is a true cup final. It would be interesting to see the viewing figures if both games were aired on terrestrial TV. But if you have access to Sky, you know which match will be bulging.

With things tied at five votes each, we needed a deciding vote. Step forward Eurosport editor/blogger Ben Snowball...

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Ben Snowball (Twitter: @BenSnowball): Quit pretending the FA Cup is an exciting spectacle – the finals now blend in with the rest of the season and we haven’t enjoyed an electrifying edition since Steven Gerrard walloped the ball past Shaka Hislop in 2006. The La Liga showdown is clearly the weekend’s standout event as Atletico Madrid attempt to burst El Classico’s bubble. But there’s a problem with all of that: Arsenal are playing in the FA Cup final. I imagine I’ll be happily watching events unfold in Spain when a text suddenly pops up on my phone proclaiming, “Arsenal are bottling it.” At that point, who could refuse an invitation to switch channels and watch the Gunners’ drought continue?

ROUNDTABLE VERDICT

FA Cup final - 5 votes

La Liga decider - 6 votes

Agree? Disagree? Think we've all got rocks in our heads? Have your say in the comments box below:

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