LaLiga: Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona preview


LaLiga leaders Barcelona will have their strength tested tonight as they visit Athletic Bilbao at San Mames Stadium. The reverse fixture was played in September and it was a tricky one for the Blaugrana, it ended 1-1 as Munir El Haddadi bagged a late equalizer after Oscar de Marcos had put Bilbao ahead. That result interrupted a four-game winning streak in all competitions for Barcelona against Bilbao. The last time Athletic Bilbao won a league match against Barcelona was in 2013, but since then they managed to beat the Blaugrana once in the Spanish Super Cup and once in the Copa del Rey, both times at home.

Athletic Bilbao are having a perfectly average season it seems, they are sitting in 12th place at the moment after having recorded eleven draws in 22 matches so far this season. However, they can't have a quiet second half of the season because they are just three points above the relegation zone and also just six points behind sixth-placed Betis. Last week they lost 2-1 at Real Sociedad in the Basque Derby, ending a run of four games without defeat in all competitions. Right-back Ander Capa is suspended for this match, while Peru Nolaskoain, Inigo Lekue and Aritz Aduriz are injured.

Barcelona are undefeated in their last ten league matches, but the last result in that streak was rather disappointing. Last week the Blaugrana got held to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou by Valencia, and they can count themselves lucky with the point after Lionel Messi scored a double to pull them level from two goals behind. This week Barca had an intense "Clasico" derby with Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Spanish Cup and they recorded another home draw, 1-1. Lionel Messi was a substitute in that match due to injury concerns, and he might not be risked in Sunday's match. Jordi Alba is suspended, while Samuel Umtiti and Arthur are injured.

Probable line-ups:

Bilbao: Herrerin - De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Yuri - D. Garcia, Etxebarria - Gomez, R. Garcia, Muniain - Williams

Barcelona: Ter Stegen - Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Roberto - Vidal, Busquets, Rakitic - Dembele, Suarez, Coutinho

My prediction: Barcelona to win 3-1, the Blaugrana can't afford anything less than three points here.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Bilbao win - 4.75
Draw - 4.00
Barcelona win - 1.70

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