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Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona : Preview, TV Channel Info, Team News, Prediction, Betting Odds

Everything you need to know about the quarter-final clash at San Mames.

Lionel Messi has been cleared fit and has no hamstring injury.

Barcelona will see their Copa Del Rey title defence put through the paces as they travel to San Mames to take on Athletic Bilbao in the quarter-finals, just days after the 6-0 drubbing in the league at Camp Nou.

Los Leones were thumped by a relentless Barcelona side after they were reduced to 10-men with only 5 minutes on the clock, but the tie is expected to be end-to-end this time around as the sides meet again in the repeat of last year’s final.

The Blaugrana consolidated their position at the top of the standings last weekend with the resounding win over the Basque outfit, and will now turn their attention towards the Spanish King’s Cup with the only ambition of retaining it.

Barcelona and Athletic Club have played each other 4 times already, twice in the league and the Spanish Super Cup, and will renew hostilities on another 2 occasions when they clash in the cup. Here’s everything you need to know about the first leg:

Kickoff and Live Telecast

Date and Time: 21st January 2016 – 01:30 AM (IST)

Telecast: There will be no live telecast of this game in India.

Venue: San Mames, Bilbao

Team News

Hosts Athletic Bilbao will be happy to have their talismanic forward Aritz Aduriz back in the team after sitting out of their last game due to suspension, whilst goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz will be available despite the red card at the weekend.

Raul Garcia and Ibai Gomez will continue their recovery in the treatment room.

Barcelona will be without striker Luis Suarez, who will be serving his first of the two-game suspension. But to allay the fears, Lionel Messi has been cleared fit and has no hamstring injury as it was suspected when he was subbed off at half-time against Bilbao on Sunday and so will be in contention for the clash.

Jeremy Mathieu and Rafinha Alcantara remain long-term absentees.

Probable line-ups

Athletic Bilbao (4-5-1): Iraizoz; De Marcos, Gurpegi, Laporte, Balenziaga; Beñat, San José, Muniain, Susaeta, Williams; Aduriz

Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegan; Vidal, Mascherano, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Turan, Iniesta, Messi, Neymar, Roberto


Team Form

Athletic Bilbao enter the tie with their confidence totally smashed to smithereens. The Lions were plonked 6-0 at the weekend by the Catalans and now face their might again, after just 3 days.

In the league, Bilbao are winless in 3 games and sit 9th in the table after 20 rounds. Their form in Copa, however, has been contrasting. Los Leones have won all the 4 games thus far, including their 4-2 aggregate win over Villareal in the previous round and that should provide them with the zest to perform in the same vein against the defending champions.

Last 5 matches: D-W-L-W-L (Last match: Barcelona 6-0 Athletic Bilbao)

As far as Barcelona are concerned, there seems to be no force in the world that can stop them at the moment. The holders were stunned 0-0 at Espanyol in the year’s first game, but since then, have been on a rampage, plundering in 16 goals in 4 games.

Obviously, Barcelona are the team in form coming into the match and its up to Bilbao how they halt this juggernaut after the recent thrashing.

Last 5 matches: D-W-W-W-W (Last match: Barcelona 6-0 Athletic Bilbao )

Key stats

  • Athletic Bilbao have scored more than 1 goal in 13 of their last 14 home games.
  • Athletic Bilbao beat Barcelona 4-0 the last time the two sides met in a cup game at San Mames.
  • Aritz Aduriz has scored 22 goals in all competitions this season, more than Messi and Neymar.

Barcelona have managed to keep a clean-sheet in each of their last 4 away games.

Key battles

Aritz Aduriz vs Gerard Pique

Spanish striker Aritz Aduriz will line-up against Barcelona once more as he aims to pull off yet another surprise. The 32-year old bagged an amazing hat-trick in the 4-0 victory over the European champions in the Supercopa back in August, and has been on a great run since then. The 22 goals he’s scored so far underlines his eye for goal even at this age, and will once again be the outlet up front for the hosts.

Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique will be up against his countryman in the duel, and needs to close tabs on the nimble-footed forward. Allowing him too much space is like signing your own death warrant, so Pique must limit his movements and deny him many opportunities at goal. That would nullify the single biggest threat coming from the home team.

Neymar vs Athletic defence

With Suarez out and fitness concerns looming large over Messi, Neymar will shoulder most of the attacking burden for the visiting side. The Brazilian was on target against Bilbao at the weekend and will have an eye on another goal as the spotlight sets on him.

Neymar was central to Barca’s winning run during Messi’s 2 month-long injury lay-off, scoring goals left, right and centre with his partner-in-crime Luis Suarez. His prolific year earned him a place in the top 3 nominations for the Ballon d’Or, where he finished third, behind winner Messi and first runner-up Ronaldo.

Agility, trickery, accuracy and pace are his greatest strengths and using it to the fullest makes him a force to reckoned with. Bilbao have got a glimpse of his ability on Sunday, but have to be more vigilant this time around if they were to retain any hopes of progressing.

Prediction

Although a repeat of Sunday’s scoreline is unlikely with the match expected to be a more tight affair, this time around, the defending champions can see themselves sailing through to the last 4.

Even without the services of Luis Suarez, the visitors should have little difficulty in disposing them off, though not like the one at the weekend, but enough to advance to the next round.

Predicted score: Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Barcelona

Betting Odds (bet365)

Athletic Bilbao  – 7/10

Draw – 3/1

Barcelona – 9/2

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