Verdict: Barcelona win
Best Odds: 20/21
Looking to lay down another marker when they make the trip to the San Mamés Barria on Saturday night, Barcelona will face off against Athletic Bilbao this weekend.
Starting with the hosts, while Athletic Bilbao might have opened the 2021/22 La Liga campaign away at Elche as a standout pick, Los Leones put in what was a sluggish display on the road. Despite signing off their pre-season preparations with a 1-1 draw away at former Premier League champions Liverpool, and a shock 2-0 victory against German giants Borussia Dortmund, Head Coach Marcelino is still demanding his side find some stability. Ending last year’s season with a 2-0 defeat against Elche back on May 22nd and losing each of their final three La Liga contests, they did gain a reputation from across Spain for their issues in the final third. Once again drawing a blank away at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero last weekend, Bilbao have now failed to find the net in each of their last four domestic matchups continuing on from last season. Knowing that they face a stern test when the former champions come to town on Saturday night, it’s also worth highlighting that Marcelino’s side won just one of their last six La Liga matchups on home soil during the last campaign.
In a real blow to Saturday’s hosts, they will once again be without the likes of Yuri Berchiche, Peru Nolaskoain, Kenan Kodro, Inigo Cordoba, and Alex Petxa.
However, while Raul Garcia will be able to return from suspension, there also remain fitness doubts over Ander Capa.
As for the visitors, while Barcelona might have begun life without talisman Lionel Messi last weekend, Ronald Koeman would have been thrilled by his side’s display at the Nou Camp. Despite watching the six-time Ballon d’Or winner make the move to Paris earlier in the week, the former Holland boss saw his side land an eye-catching 4-2 win at home against Real Sociedad. Desperate to build off of that momentum and also signing off their pre-season run with a thumping 3-0 win against Italian giants Juventus, Barca appear to have put their off-field issues to one side. Enduring a sluggish end to the 2020/21 campaign and having to watch Atletico Madrid lift the La Liga crown, Koeman’s side should be boosted by what is a rampant record against Saturday’s hosts. Landing a thumping 4-0 win when they faced off against Bilbao in April’s Copa del Rey final, they are unbeaten in each of their last five meetings against the Basque Country-outfit, a run that has seen them pick up four victories. Mustering 10 points from their final four away fixtures last season, Barcelona should be smelling a chance here.
Ronald Koeman will once again be without the likes of Moussa Wague, Ansu Fati, Oscar Mingueza, Sergio Aguero, Ousmane Dembele, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
However, bagging a brace against Real Sociedad last weekend, Martin Braithwaite should retain his spot in attack.
Key Factors to Consider
- When the two sides faced off in the Copa del Rey final back in April, Barcelona picked up a thumping 4-0 win.
- In fact, Ronald Koeman’s men are unbeaten in their last five meetings against Bilbao, collecting four victories.
- Saturday’s hosts signed off the 2020/21 campaign by winning just one of their final six La Liga home fixtures.
- Barcelona collected 10 points from their final four La Liga fixtures away from the Nou Camp last season.
- Continuing on from last season, Bilbao have failed to find the net in each of their last four domestic contests.
While Barcelona might have seen Lionel Messi end his glittering tenure as he made the move to Paris earlier in the month, the former Spanish champions picked up a real morale boost at the Nou Camp. Although some thought that they might have faced a stern test on home soil, Ronald Koeman’s side landed an eye-catching 4-2 victory against Real Sociedad in Catalonia. Making the trip to the San Mamés Barria this weekend smelling a golden chance, Saturday’s guests will also be boosted by a rampant record against Athletic Bilbao. Storming their way to a thumping 4-0 win when they lifted the Copa del Rey title back in April, we’re backing a similar away victory here.
Verdict: Barcelona win
Best Odds: 20/21