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

Your guide to Barcelona's second leg encounter with Atheltic Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey.

Luis Suarez was the hat-trick hero in the 6-0 battering of Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou in the league 10 days ago

Barcelona look to seal a place in the semi-finals of the Copa Del Rey for the 6th year on the spin when they host Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou, holding a slender one-goal advantage entering into the fray.

Munir El Haddadi and Neymar were on target for the holders as they beat Los Leones 2-1 in the first leg at San Mames last week, and have one foot in the last 4 already. Ageless striker Aritz Aduriz scored at the death for the Basque outfit to give hand them a lifeline in the return fixture, but the last year's runners-up are still left staring up a cliff, considering their poor record in the Catalonian capital.

Bilbao were smashed 6-0 the last time they set afoot at the Estadi Del Barcelona, and have lost to their illustrous rivals thrice in the 5 meetings already this term. Ernesto Valverde’s troops managed to shrug some of their league warts with a 5-2 thumping of Eibar last weekend, and only a performance of similar quality can throw them a chance to overturn the deficit and progress.

Barcelona, on the other hand, have their one eye on the important clash with Atletico Madrid at the weekend, and also appeared sloppy in their last outing. Courtesy to an artistic goal from talisman Lionel Messi, the Blaugrana came out 2-1 victors over Malaga despite a poor performance. Manager Luis Enrique is alarmed and will expect his side to do a lot better during the midweek, despite the upper hand.

Kickoff and Telecast

Date and Time: Thursday, 28th January, 2016 – 02:00 AM (IST)

Telecast: The game is not scheduled for a live boradcast in India

Live streaming: www.totalsportek.com

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona

Team News

Whilst Sergio Busquets and Arda Turan missed the training on Monday due to illness and are doubtful for the favourites, Barcelona will be bolstered by the return of Luis Suarez, who is eligible after serving a 2-game suspension.

Left-back Jordi Alba picked up a hamstring during Barca’s 6-0 win over Bilbao 10 days ago, and is expected to miss out again, leaving the door ajar for Jeremy Mathieu, Adriano or Sergi Roberto to start, whereas Neymar is also doubtful after picking up a minor knock in the game against Malaga on Sunday.

The visitors Athletic Bilbao have no new injury concerns. Winger Ibai Gomez will continue his recuperation in the treatment room, whereas Ander Iturraspe could return after a long spell on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.

Probable line-ups

Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegan; Vidal, Mascherano, Pique, Mathieu; Iniesta, Rakitic, Roberto; Messi, Suarez, Munir

Athletic Bilbao (4-2-3-1): Herrerin; De Marcos, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga; San Jose, Benat; Susaeta, Eraso, Muniain; Aduriz

Form guide

Irrefutably, Barcelona are the form team entering the tie. Currently on a 24 match unbeaten streak, the Catalan giants have also won their last 6 matches in all competitions and are firmly on course for another silverware-laden season.

Despite their uncharacteristically insipid show at Malaga at the weekend, head-honcho Luis Enrique can still remain unperturbed as his side still look a force and can make it to the semis of the Spanish King’s cup without breaking a sweat.

Last 5 matches: W-W-W-W-W (Last result: Malaga 1-2 Barcelona)

Athletic Bilbao have had a topsy-turvy run in the league, a run which leaves them 8th in the table and 10 points worse off Villareal, who occupy the last Champions League spot. The Liones saw the daylights knocked out of them when Barcelona crushed them 6-0 in the league just 10 days ago, but restored some confidence after a clinical show in the 5-2 drubbing of Eibar in their last outing.

How much of that confidence will they muster again against the Catalans in the clash will go some way in adding a late twist to the tale.

Last 5 matches: L-W-L-L-W (Last result: Athletic Bilbao 5-2 Eibar)

Key stats

  • The sides meet for the 6th time this season.
  • Athletic Bilbao haven’t won in Camp Nou since November 2001.
  • Aritz Aduriz has scored 5 goals against Barcelona in 4 appearances this season.
  • Barcelona are on a 14-match unbeaten run in the Copa del rey. Their last defeat came in April 2014 when they were beaten 2-1 by Real Madrid in the finals.
  • Barcelona haven’t lost any game at home since the 0-1 loss to Malaga in February last year.

Key battles

Mikel San Jose vs Ivan Rakitic

Athletic dynamite Mikel San Jose will be manning the midfield for the vistors, trying to orchestrate another scalp. The Pamploma native struck a blistering halfway line volley in the Supercup against Barcelona, and played an instrumental role in the win.

The 26-year-old will be shouldering the creative mantle for his side once again, but will have to get the better of Ivan Rakitic to have an influence in the midfield. The Barcelona midfielder has been through the thick of the things with the Catalan club since his move from Sevilla 2 seasons ago, and has grown into one of the talismanic figures for his side.

Whilst in keeping with his attacking responsibilitis, the Croat also needs to be on his toes and stall San Jose in his tracks to prevent the visting side from creating chances. Rakitic is an adventurous midfielder and can change the dimensions of the game at the drop of a hat. He needs to limit San Jose’s movements and prevent him much time on the ball.

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 24 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.

Prediction

Barring an implosion, Barcelona are heavy favourites to progress to the last 4. Despite the nagging injury concerns, the home side have enough ammunitions in their arsenal to shrug off the challenge coming from Bilbao with minimal efforts.

Predicted score: Barcelona 3-1 Athletic Bilbao

Betting Odds (bet365)

Barcelona – 2/7

Draw – 19/4

Athletic Bilbao – 8/1

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