Preview and Prediction
Barcelona and Bilbao are squaring off again in this weekend for the third time in the past few weeks. Both sides have secured one victory each. Messi and Co ruined Marcelino’s debut this season, but the Basque side made a sweeter revenge by beating Blaugrana in Super Copa de Espana final. This meeting will be the decisive one which side is better. Barcelona is still sitting on the third while Bilbao is stuck on the ninth in the standings.
Both teams’ previous games
Blaugrana managed to get past Elche’s challenge last weekend on the road without Messi. Frankie De Jong and Riqui Puig netted the winning goals. It was Puig’s first ever goal in La Liga.
Bilbao was even in much better form after winning the silverware. They hammered Getafe 5-1 in San Mames. Despite conceding an early goal by Marc Cucurella, they replied almost immediately by Raul Garcia, followed by Yeray Alvarez. The former Atletico Madrid man made his brace afterwards. The remaining two goals were scored by Alex Belenguer and Oscar de Marcos.
The return of Messi from his suspension came in the right time. After the fixture is Copa Del Rey in the midweek, he will be back as the anchorman on their attack, provided he doesn’t get carried away by the Basque’s defensive provocation. Koeman’s 4-3-3 will be deadly again with Messi, Griezmann and Dembele up front. The only Koeman’s concern is the absence of Sergio Dest on the right back. He is ruled out alongside Coutinho, Ansu Fati and Gerrard Pique. Luckily, Sergi Roberto is back so he could fill in the void.
Marcelino Toral will still be deploying 4-4-2 with Raul Garcia and Inaki Williams as the duo front men, supported by Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain who would play out wide. The only names who will be sidelined are Mikel Balenziaga and Peru Nolaskoain. Marcelino’s tactical approach relying on physical and aerial duel proves to be dangerous for El Barca.
Players to watch
The Dutchman Frankie de Jong thrives in his new more attacking role. He even eases Messi’s burden in the build-up and scoring. The former Ajax’s man has begged 4 goals and 4 assists in domestic fixtures plus Champions League.
In Bilbao, Raul Garcia has enjoyed his old role with Atletico Madrid as the frontman. Lately, he has netted three goals in La Liga plus another two in Super Copa de Espana. Another notable name in the squad is Inaki Williams who has contributed four goals and three assists.
Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao Prediction
Messi and Co need to be careful when taking on Bilbao, who seems to be able to spot on their defensive frailties. They could push them not to use their aerial ability. Otherwise, another nightmare could emerge in Camp Nou. A draw seems to be the fair result for both sides.
The punters seem to be backing the Catalan side with the odds to win at 4/9, whereas Marcelino’s men are in the win market of 36/5. The draw result is at the value of at 17/4.