After a rare full weeks rest for the team, we’re back in La Liga action tonight. At 9pm local time, Barça will be facing Athletic Club de Bilbao away at San Mammes. It’s always a difficult place to go, with a very tense atmosphere too. Bilbao are always strong at home and will give us a very difficult test. We’re going to have to be close to our very best in order to get a positive result. And that’s exactly what we’ll be looking for later on tonight.
A quick look at our opponents:
Like I’ve mentioned previously, Athletic Club is always a difficult game. Especially away from home. Former Barca coach, Ernesto Valverde returned to the club at the start of the season. And has since built a solid team to beat. Our last meeting against them came at home, way before the World Cup break.
On the night, it was an incredible performance from Barca. With Xavi leading us to a 4-0 win on the night. Ousmane Dembele shone against the basque club, however he wont be available for tonight’s game. As he is just nearing the end of his recovery from injury. Speaking of absentees, Bilbao are also coming into the game with a number of players absent.
They have at least 5 players out with injury, including their number one goalkeeper, Unai Simon. And most importantly, Sancet is facing suspension, so he’ll miss the game too. They currently find themselves sitting in a pretty comfortable, 9th place. 11 points off the top 4 positions.
During their last 5 games, they’ve won twice, lost twice and drew their most recent game 0-0 away at Rayo. Away trips to San Mammes are always one of the most difficult games on the schedule. Barça will be hoping to come away with a positive result vs Athletic Club. Thats the most important thing. But of course, its going to be a battle.
Heading into the game, we’ve received some positive news, with the return of Robert Lewandowski. Over the past few weeks, he has been struggling with form. But that might’ve had something to do with a possible injury. Which he’s been out two weeks for. Hopefully, this little rest has helped him and we’ll start to see the real Lewandowski return. His goals and overall impact on the game is key.
Gavi also returns from suspension, which is a huge boost to the midfield. Pedri was close to coming back from injury too, but its most likely his comeback will take place in El Clasico midweek. Ousmane wont be back until after the international break. Apart from those absences, and the suspension to Ronald Araujo, we have a full strength team to choose from.
As always, the question about how we lineup always comes down to the setup Xavi chooses to go with. Will we be with three or four midfielders? For this game, I think we’ll revert back to the four man midfield. With Gavi, Frenkie, Busi and Kessie.
In defence, obviously we’ll be without the best centre back in the world. So again, it all comes down to who plays right back. If its Kounde, then Alonso will most likely partner Christensen in defence. Whereas if Kounde starts at centre back, then Roberto would probably be at right back. Lewandowski and Raphinha will lead the line.
My starting 11:
Kounde- Christensen- Alonso- Balde
Gavi- Busquets- Frenkie- Kessie