Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao : Preview, TV Channel Info, Team News, Prediction, Betting Odds
Barcelona kickstart the second set of La Liga fixtures by entertaining Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou in a first of the three clashes lined-up over the next 10 days. The holders were drawn against the Spanish supercup winners in the quarter-finals of the Copa Del Rey, meaning they would face each other for a total of 6 times this all season.
Los Leones trounced the European champions 5-1 in the supercup back in August to lift their first piece of silverware in 30 years, and now return to the scene of their historic moment, albiet, with both sides having undergone contrasting set of fortunes since then.
Whilst the defending champions have gone on to reinstate themselves as the favourites again, Athletic Club haven’t been able to replicate their Supercopa form in the league campaign, sitting at a lowly 8th with only 8 victories from the first 19 games of the season.
Here’s everything you need to know about the enticing duel.
Kickoff and Live Telecast
Date and Time: 18th January 2016, 01:00 AM (IST)
Telecast: Sony Six
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Barcelona will welcome the quartet of Neymar, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets back into the line-up, whilst Luis Suarez will also be available after serving the first of his 2-game suspension in the 2-0 victory over Espanyol in the Cope Del Rey in the midweek.
Athletic Bilbao are set to travel without their talismanic striker Aritz Aduriz, who scored 4 of the 5 goals in the supercup including an amazing hat-trick in the first leg. The veteran Spaniard is suspended for the clash, whilst former Atletico Madrid man Raul Garcia is also set to sit out after picking up a knee injury against Sevilla last week.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Vidal, Pique, Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Turan, Iniesta; Neymar, Suarez, Messi.
Athletic Bilbao (4-5-1): Iraizoz; De Marcos, Gurpegi, Laporte, Balenziaga; Beñat, San José; Eraso, Susaeta, Williams; Muniain.
Barcelona enter the tie at full strength and with confidence gushing through their veins. After being held to a shock 0-0 draw at Espanyol in first game of the new year, Luis Enrique’s troops have responded in emphatic fashion, winning 4-1, 4-0 and 2-0 in the subsequent games, two of which came against their Catalan rivals in the tense Copa Del Rey fixtures.
The Blaugrana currently trail runaway leaders Atletico Madrid by a mere 2 points, but with a game in hand. They got some measure of revenge over Athletic for the supercup humiliation with a narrow 1-0 victory at San Mames in the opener, and will hope pull off a double with another routine victory.
Last 5 matches: W-D-W-W-W (Last result: Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona)
Athletic Bilbao have flattered to deceive to say the least. Whilst the start was far from straightforward, losing 4 and winning only 1 of the opening 6 games in the league, the Basque outfit managed to weather the storm midway. However, the results continued to be disappointing.
The Lions’ erratic form saw them drop points cheaply to Deportivo, Malaga, Las Palmas and Granada, eclipsing their victories over Valencia, Espanyol and Celta Vigo. The 4-2 aggregate win over Villareal in the last 16 of Copa Del Rey is one shining light for the embattled club in the recent weeks.
Whilst they will take inspiration from their last visit to Camp Nou that ended 1-1 in the supercup and led them to lifting the trophy, a repeat of the result seems unlikely this time around.
Last 5 matches: W-D-W-L-W (Last result: Villareal 0-1 Athletic Bilbao)
- Barcelona have won their last 11 league games against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou – their longest run in the history over the Basque club.
- Barcelona have drawn three of their last 6 games in the league.
- The Blaugrana have scored in each of their last 17 league games at home.
- Ernesto Valverde has won only two of the 15 league games as a manager against Barcelona.
- This will be 215th time that the sides meet. Barcelona hold the upper hand with 105 wins against 73 by Bilbao.
Mikel San Jose vs Sergio Busquets
Athletic dynamite Mikel San Jose will be manning the midfield, trying to orchestrate another scalp. The Pamploma native struck a blistering halfway line volley in the Supercup against Barcelona and was played an instrumental role in the win.
The 26-year old will be shouldering the creative mantle for his side again, but will have to get the better of Sergio Busquets to have an influence in the midfield. The Barcelona midfielder has been through the thick of the things with the Catalan club for years now, and represents an important member for his side.
Busquets needs to be on his toes and stall San Jose in his tracks to prevent the visting side from creating chances. The former Liverpool man is an adventurous midfielder who has a penchant to stroll ahead at every opportunity. Busquets needs to limit his movements and prevent him much time on the ball.
Barcelona appear to be in much better shape than they were when the sides last met at Camp Nou. The hosts may have struggled against the Basque outfit in the last 3 games, but may find it relatively comfy in their latest meeting.
Predicted score: Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona – 4/9
Draw – 25/1
Atheltic Bilbao – 150/1