Barcelona will aim to get back into the top four of the La Liga standings when they lock horns with Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou this weekend.

Barcelona will be aiming to extend their winning run to seven games across all competitions when they face off against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou in Matchweek 26 of the 2021/22 La Liga.

Barcelona have not lost any of their last six matches in all competitions and are undefeated in their previous eight in La Liga. The Catalans are flying high after their 4-1 win over Valencia last weekend, which was followed by a 4-2 triumph against Napoli in the UEFA Europa League knockout playoffs.

Xavi Hernandez’s side entered the gameweek in fourth, but have slipped down to fifth place after Atletico Madrid’s win against Celta Vigo on Saturday. They will be aiming to reclaim the fourth spot in the standings with a victory. But it will be easier said than done against a resolute Athletic Bilbao side, who have already beaten the Blaugrana this term, eliminating them from the Copa del Rey earlier this year.

Marcelino’s side enter Sunday’s game on the back of a 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad. With 37 points from 25 games, the Basque club are still in with a shout for a top-six finish, with Villarreal just two points ahead of them. They will be gunning to dislodge the Yellow Submarine by clinching a victory at Camp Nou.

The reverse fixture played in August last year ended in a 1-1 draw. But Athletic Bilbao beat Barcelona 3-2 in their most recent fixture in the Copa del Rey last month. Ahead of their latest encounter on Sunday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Barcelona

Barcelona have been handed a double injury boost heading into the game as Memphis Depay and Clement Lenglet are fully fit and back in the squad. However, they will still be without Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti, while Jordi Alba will miss out due to suspension.

Xavi will set his team up in his preferred 4-3-3 formation with Marc-Andre ter Stegen lining up in goal. Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique are guaranteed starters at the heart of the Barcelona defence. With Alba ruled out, Sergino Dest should move out to left-back, paving the way for veteran star Dani Alves to slot in at right-back.

Captain Sergio Busquets will shield the backline and will have support from Alves, who will occasionally drop into the middle of the park as part of his role as an inverted full-back. Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, who are in fine form, ought to occupy the remaining two slots in midfield and provide the attacking thrust.

Adama Traore should retain his place on the right flank owing to his impressive performances of late, but Ferran Torres could be given a breather, with Gavi set to replace him on the left side of the attacking trident. After netting four goals in his last two appearances, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ought to continue as the centre-forward. Ousmane Dembele will be an option from the bench along with Luuk de Jong.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Araujo, Dest; de Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Adama, Aubameyang, Gavi

Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao have just one major absentee for the game as Alex Berenguer misses out due to suspension for an accumulation of cards. Nico Williams has recovered from a knock and is part of the travelling squad for Sunday’s game. Oier Zarraga is back in contention as well after missing the last match with suspension.

Marcelino will set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Unai Simon, who is a transfer target for Tottenham. Yeray Alvarez and Inigo Martinez should slot in at the heart of the Athletic defence and look to keep Aubameyang quiet on the night. Oscar De Marcos and Yuri Berchiche are likely to feature as the full-backs and will have their task cut out against the Barcelona wide forwards.

Dani Garcia and Mikel Vesga will have the responsibility of cutting out the influence of the Blaugrana’s midfield runners. They will largely stay behind the ball and look to recover possession before attempting to set the wingers on their way with sharp forward passes. Captain Iker Muniain and the fit-again Nico Williams should be the two wide players for the visiting side.

Up top, Nico’s elder brother, Inaki Williams, is a certainty to start and will make life hard for the Barcelona defenders with his pace and physicality. He will have Oihan Sancet as his partner, with Raul Garcia being an option from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Simon; De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche; N. Williams, D. Garcia, Vesga, Muniain; I. Williams, Sancet

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have gone 19 consecutive home matches without losing to Athletic Bilbao in La Liga (W16 D3).
  • Athletic Bilbao have won four of their last six La Liga games (D1 L1), just one fewer than in their previous 23 games in the competition.
  • Barcelona have lost just one of their last 14 La Liga matches (W7 D6) after losing three of the previous four in the competition.
  • Athletic Bilbao have scored 29 goals in La Liga this season, despite having an xG total of 36.3. This is the biggest negative differential between goals scored and expected goals in the competition in 2021/22.
  • After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat-trick against Valencia last time out, Barcelona are the team with the highest number of different goalscorers in the big five European Leagues in 2021//22 (19).

Player to Watch

Adama Traore

Adama Traore looks like a man on a mission since returning to Barcelona. After managing just three assists in the past eighteen months with Wolves, the 26-year-old Spanish international has already set up four goals in just five matches for the Blaugrana since arriving in January.

Following the move to Camp Nou, there were all sorts of questions and doubts with regard to his end product in the final third. But Adama has done well to silence them with a series of impactful displays on the right-wing, with his pace and ball control causing problems to the opposition defences. More of the same will be expected from the Wolves loanee when he steps out on the pitch against Athletic.

Prediction

Barcelona 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao come into the game on the back of an impressive derby win over Real Sociedad and have won four of their last five games. The fact that they have defeated Barcelona once this term will fill them with confidence. However, the Blaugrana are finally hitting their stride under Xavi Hernandez, with the new signings like Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang making an impact.

Barça are playing free-flowing attacking football and have shown the clinical edge in front of goal in recent games. So even though Athletic Bilbao will make things difficult on the night, the Catalans should have enough quality to get over the line at Camp Nou and reclaim the fourth spot in the standings.

Comments 2

  1. Alex maric says:

    Good analysis but the predicted score line is underrating barca
    I think it will end 3:1 in favor of barca

  2. Oroge Toyin says:

    Great analysis but Barca could edge athletic more than 2 goals ; 4-1score line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I agree to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Recommended

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.