Ninety minutes from cup joy
The 2008/09 season is drawing to a close across Europe's top leagues, with the month of May revealing the winners of a host of domestic tussles. The icing on the cake of an action-packed month will be the finals of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup, featuring Manchester United-Barcelona and Werder Bremen-Shakhtar Donetsk respectively.
Not that FIFA.com have forgotten the magic of the domestic cup competitions, as we preview some of the biggest matches in store.
Breton the talk of Stade de France
The French Cup final sees a first-ever meeting at this stage of the competition between two sides from Brittany. The decider continues a remarkable season in knockout competitions for clubs from the region, with fellow Bretons Vannes also reaching the League Cup final where they were beaten by Bordeaux.
Top-flight outfit Rennes, cup winners in 1965 and 1971, will have their hearts set on adding to their tally after a 38-year drought. Second-tier Guingamp, who ended the involvement of Ligue 1 sides Toulouse and Le Mans, have made it all the way to the final after starting their campaign two rounds earlier than Saturday's opponents. And the showpiece event is not unchartered territory for them either, given that they reached the 1997 decider against Nice a year before exiting the top division, a game they lost 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Clash of cup kings
Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, Spain's two most successful cup sides, are set to meet in the final of the Copa del Rey for the first time in 25 years. The previous encounter, on 5 May 1984, ended in a 1-0 win for the Basques over Diego Maradona's Barça, with the game culminating in an infamous on-field brawl. Can Los Leones once again triumph over a Culé line-up including the likes of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Andres Iniesta?
However, an Azulgrana success would put Josep Guardiola's charges a step closer to a historic treble, with La Liga virtually in the bag and a place in the Champions League final also assured. For Athletic, fondly known in Spanish circles as El Rey de Copas (the Cup Kings), a victory would be a huge source of pride as well as a road back into European football for a team grown used to relegation battles in recent seasons. It would also be their 24th win in 34 finals, drawing them level with Los Blaugranas, who can already boast 24 successes from their 33 final appearances.
Inter and Roma's dominance ends
Lazio and Sampdoria meet in this year's Italian Cup final at the Estadio Olimpico in Rome, home ground of Lazio and local rivals Roma, in a game which finally draws a close to four years of Inter Milan-Roma hegemony. And after of a middling campaign in this season's Serie A, both the Biancocelesti and their Genoese opponents would dearly love to give their tifosi something to cheer.
Lazio were the last team not including Inter or Roma to win the trophy, and are aiming for their fifth Coppa Italia crown after successes in 1958, 1998, 2000 and 2004. Samp, for their part, have not won silverware since their glorious late 1980s and early 90s period, which included cup wins in 1985, 1988, 1989 and 1994.
Blue the colour at Wembley
The meeting between Chelsea and Everton in the final of the 128th edition of the world's oldest club competition is an historical first, and is the pair's last chance for silverware this season. Guus Hiddink's Blues, for their part, are out of the running for the league title and are still smarting from their Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona.
Everton, meanwhile, go into the match on the back of an encouraging Premier League season that has taken them to sixth spot so far and virtually guarantees a Europa League berth for 2009/10. A win for the Toffees would be their sixth FA Cup success (1906, 1933, 1966, 1984 and 1995) and the perfect ending to a campaign that has included victories over Manchester United and arch-rivals Liverpool.
Season-saving match in Germany
The German Cup final between Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen could be seen as an ideal opportunity for the pair to add lustre to underwhelming Bundesliga campaigns. And both teams have had to earn their place in the decider, with Werder edging out league leaders Wolfsburg and fellow high-flyers Hamburg in the last eight and last four respectively, with Bayer defeating Bayern Munich and then tournament surprise packages Mainz.
Despite their travails in the league, Bremen have been Germany's team to beat in knockout competitions and on 7 May defeated fellow Bundesliga side Hamburg over two legs to reach the UEFA Cup final. They, like the Leverkusen outfit, know victory on 30 May in Berlin will guarantee them a place in next season's new Europa League.
In Greece, league champions Olympiakos made theirs a double after winning a thrilling cup final against AEK Athens. After a 3-3 draw after extra time, which included a brace from England U-21 striker Matt Derbyshire, Olympiakos held their nerve to win a nail-biting penalty shootout 15-14. Over in the Netherlands, Eredivisie runners-up FC Twente and their coach, former England boss Steve McClaren, have the opportunity to collect the club's third Dutch Cup trophy against final first-timers Heerenveen.
We have further intrigue in Scotland and Portugal, where heavyweights Rangers and FC Porto take on relative minnows Falkirk and Pacos de Ferreira respectively. The Glasgow giants, a point behind Old Firm rivals Celtic in the title race, take on the Scottish Premier League's bottom club on 30 May. Jesualdo Ferreira's Dragons, who are well on course for a fourth successive domestic title win, meet Pacos on 31 May.