Here we are in January 2021 and Barcelona sits at 3rd place in La Liga, 10 points behind league leader Atletico Madrid. It has been a topsy turvy season for Barca filled with inconsistent performances on the pitch and uncertain circumstances beyond it. Athletic Club has a new manager take over them mid-season in Marcelino. They will be looking to rub salt on the wounds of the Blaugrana after their Spanish Super Cup defeat. Barcelona would be for revenge after the demoralizing defeat in the Super Cup. Athletic Club will come in being cautiously optimistic of their hopes of causing an upset at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona is without Pique, Ansu Fati, and Coutinho who are still recovering from long-term injuries while Sergio Roberto only just returning to training. Otherwise, it is a full-strength squad for Barca.
La Liga Form: DWWWW
Expect Ronal Koeman to be diplomatic and stick to his tried and trusted team. Barca will line up with a 4-2-1-3 formation with Messi playing in the false nine roles, Griezmann on the left, and Dembele on the right flank. Pedri in the attacking midfield area will look to link up with Messi. Frenkie de Jong and Busquets will continue in midfield with Frenkie looking to continue his excellent form. Mingueza or Dest at right-back with Araujo, Lenglet, and Alba will make up the back four with Ter Stegen in goal. Jordi Alba will look to motor down the left flank to provide width down the left-hand side.
For Atletic Club, Inigo Martinez and Balenziaga remain doubtful to recover in time for the game. Marcelino is expected to make a host of changes to the side that started in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. Ander Capa and Unai Simon will return to the lineup. Yuri Berchiche will play at left-back. Yeray Alvarez and Nunez the two center-backs. DE Marcos, Dani Garcia, and Unai Vencedor in Midfield. Raul Garcia, Muniain, and Williams will be the three forwards.
La Liga Form: DLWLW
Muniain will be looking to create magic on the left flank with Williams flying on the right. Raul Garcia will barrage the central attacking areas. Dani Garcia will be in the holding role with De Marcos moving in forward to support the attack. Yuri will be looking to make supporting runs down the left and Ander Capa launching aerial balls in for Raul Garcia to attack. Expect a spirited performance from Athletic as always.
Barcelona has won their last 4 games in La Liga and will be looking to make it 5 wins in a row. Both these sides have locked horns 58 times with Barcelona emerging victorious 37 times and Athletic winning 9 times. Athletic Club took all three points at the San Mames last season. Barcelona emerged 3-2 victors in a thrilling game at San Mames this season.
Players to watch out for
Frenkie De Jong
Frenkie De Jong has found red hot form scoring in his last two games as well as providing 2 assists. He has shown his versatility with his dynamic runs from midfield and making key passes at crucial moments. He will be looking to provide for goals in this one as well.
Arguably the best talent to come out of the Basque club in recent years, Williams is a pace machine who can make dynamic runs on the flanks, giving headaches to any defender. His maturity on the field as well as good finishing make him lethal in the final third of the pitch. He will be looking to repeat the screamer which he scored in the Super Cup Final.
Barcelona will look to continue their winning streak in La Liga and putting pressure on the top two. Koeman will be cautious in addressing Barca’s Title chances this season. Athletic will be looking to continue their newfound form under their new coach after winning the Spanish Super Cup trophy on January 17.
We predict a tough contest between the two sides with Barcelona edging the Basque club with a 2-1 victory.
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