BARCELONA VS ATH.BILBAO PREVIEW & PREDICTION
In his own Camp Nou FC Barcelona hopes to take another step towards the Spanish national title on Sunday afternoon. Opponent Athletic Bilbao has a disastrous season and could therefore use a boost.
FC Barcelona is still on track for the treble, as last Wednesday evening the Catalans secured their place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League thanks to a smooth 3-0 victory over Chelsea. Of course Lionel Messi was again the great seasoning at Blaugrana with two goals, who will compete against AS Roma in the next round.
This weekend, however, the focus will be on its own competition, in which in its own Camp Nou mid-engine Athletic Bilbao will be the opponent. FC Barcelona is still unbeaten in La Liga and suffered only twice in the home. Not only do Luis Suarez and Messi score lustfully, the defense also stands as a house. The Catalans managed to keep the zero in no less than ten of their last twelve official home games. This weekend trainer Ernesto Valverde can not, however, have the injured Sergio Busquets, who has to take care of the balance in the Catalan midfield. Luis Suarez is not in the running because of a suspension, so Messi will probably be joined by Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele on Sunday afternoon against Athletic Bilbao. The Argentinean ball virtuoso is again in top form this season and managed to put his name on the scoreboard in his last five official matches
Even in Spain it is still fresh for the time of the year, but the perception of temperature in San Mames is even lower than at the North Pole. Athletic Bilbao is in a disastrous season in La Liga and was eliminated early in the Copa del Rey, but the good results in Europe kept the murdering supporters in check. Last Thursday, however, the Basques were eliminated in the eighth finals of the Europa League by Olympique Marseille. After the 3-1 defeat in France in the first leg, the team of trainer Kuko Ziganda also went down in his own San Mames: 1-2.
Athletic Bilbao is in fact already ready for this season, because with a twelfth place the Basques can forget European football. Ziganda will probably be able to finish the season, but actually the Basques can best start all over again under a new coach. There is a lot of talent with players like Yeray Alvarez, Unai Nunez, Inigo Cordoba, Kepa and Inaki Williams in the selection of Los Leones, but under Ziganda no one gets better and the ‘age old’ Aritz Aduriz (37 years old) still has to Basque cart. Ziganda tried it regularly with Williams as a deep striker, but he feels a lot better on the flanks. Aduriz, despite his age, is still indispensable for Athletic Bilbao, that Sunday afternoon in and against Barcelona with Mikel Rico, Yeray Alvarez and Iker Muniain three potential base players should miss.
PREDICTION: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.43