Feb 1, 2017

Barcelona Team News & Preview

Goal-line technology, or lack thereof, was the story of Barcelona’s last league outing where they lost ground on league leaders Real Madrid after a 1-1 draw at Real Betis. However, Barça are in a good run of form and lost only once in January in eight games. That loss, though, came against Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals. Luis Enrique’s side are the Liga top scorers with 52 goals, but six draws thus far have meant they trail Real Madrid by four points and a game in the title race. This game will be the fourth time this season Barça square off to Athletic, having already won twice and lost once. Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez have combined to score 31 of Barça’s 52 league goals this season. Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, and Lucas Digne are out injured, while the rest of the squad is available for selection to Enrique.

Barcelona predicted line-up (4-3-3): Ter Stegen, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba, Roberto, Mascherano, Rakitić, Denis Suárez, Neymar, Messi, Luis Suárez.
Athletic Bilbao Team News & Preview
Ernesto Valverde’s team have an advantage going into this game as they have the week off while Barça take on Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey. Los Leones are seventh in the table, having not lost a league game since 12th December. They are four points off the Champions League places, and a win could see them close the gap on fourth-placed Atlético. In the corresponding fixture last season, Athletic were handed a 6-0 defeat by Barça in a game where the Basques played with ten men for 85 minutes. Any repeat of that thumping scoreline looks unlikely this time round given Athletic are much improved this season. Centre-back Xabier Etxeita and winger Sabin Merino are the only injury concerns for Valverde as he looks to win against Barça for only the fifth time in his career.

Athletic Bilbao predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Iraizoz, De Marcos, Bóveda, Laporte, Balenziaga, San José, Beñat, Raúl Garcia, Munian, Williams, Aduriz.
Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao Key Stats
Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde has lost more games against Barcelona in his managerial career than any other club. Barcelona are undefeated in their last 13 La Liga matches. Athletic Club have failed to win their last 6 away La Liga matches. Aritz Aduriz has played more games against Barça in his career than any other club, scoring nine goals.

Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao Betting Tips
Barça have scored 24 goals in their last five home matches in all competitions including putting three past Athletic in the Copa del Rey in early January. Having struggled to break past a resolute Real Betis last weekend, the likes of Messi, Suárez, and Neymar will look to put their team's title challenge back on track. Visit Leo Vegas Sport to bet on Barça to win by a goal margin of two or more.

Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao Prediction
Athletic have proved to be tough opponents for Barça over the years, but Los Leones have won only once against the defending champions in their last six meetings. The last time they came away without losing from Camp Nou was in the Spanish Super Cup in 2015. Considering all that, Barça are clear favourites to win.
Barcelona 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

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