Barcelona will look to extend their current winning streak to four games across all competitions when they host Athletic Club on Sunday at 8:00pm (UK time).
The Blaugrana have recovered well from their Supercopa de Espana final defeat to this weekend’s opponents, beating Cornella (2-0) and Rayo Vallecano (2-1) in the Copa del Rey, either side of a La Liga win over Elche (2-0). That said, Athletic Club are enjoying a five-game winning streak of their own and will provide a stern test for Barca.
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Where to watch Barcelona vs Athletic Club on TV:
- UK: La Liga TV & Premier Sports 1
- US: beIN Sports
Scoreline prediction: Barcelona 2-2 Athletic Club
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Barcelona vs Athletic Club build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Despite their improvement in form, which has also taken in a nine-game unbeaten run in La Liga, Ronald Koeman’s men remain 10 points adrift of league leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand over the Catalan side.
Barcelona have been less than convincing in some of their recent wins, too, struggling to see off supposed lesser opposition and being pushed hard, even by lower-league teams. That said, Real Madrid’s shock defeat to Levante on Saturday should offer even more motivation here.
Still, Athletic Club have already given Koeman plenty of problems across January, first giving little ground in a 3-2 defeat to Barcelona in La Liga, before beating the Catalan giants 3-2 in the Supercopa de Espana final by the same scoreline.
Marcelino’s side have won six of their last seven games in all competitions, climbing to ninth in the table. If results go their way, they could end the week just nine points adrift of the Champions League places.
- Barcelona (vs Rayo Vallecano): Neto; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet, Firpo; De Jong, Busquets*, Puig; Trincao, Messi, Griezmann.
- Athletic Club (vs Alcoyano): Ezkieta; Lekue, Nunez, Alvarez, Berchiche; Berenguer, Lopez, Vesga, Morcillo; Villalibre, Sancet.
Lionel Messi will return to league action after serving his suspension, while Sergiño Dest should start after overcoming a muscle problem. However, Barca will remain without the injured trio of Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique and Philippe Coutinho, while Sergio Busquets is suspended.
Inigo Martinez and Mikel Balenziaga are fitness doubts for Marcelino, who will be without the injured Peru Nolaskoain.
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Players to watch:
- Barcelona: These two sides have already served up two epic battles this month, and right at the heart of both was Lionel Messi, although for very differing reasons. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner netted a wonderful brace to fire Barcelona to a 3-2 victory in their La Liga meeting at the start of January, extending his career tally against Athletic Club to 26 goals. However, his contribution in the Supercopa de Espana final was quite different, with Messi being sent off for violent conduct as the Blaugrana conspired to lose the showpiece, blowing Koeman’s first chance of silverware. Messi returned from suspension in midweek and scored the equalising goal as Barca came from behind to beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in the Copa del Rey and that’s the sort of effect Koeman will be hoping his star man can have once again on Sunday.
- Athletic Club: With no player scoring more than four La Liga goals so far this season, Athletic Club have struggled for a consistent difference-maker in the final third at times. However, in recent weeks, Inaki Williams has been showing signs of being that man for Marcelino. In his past eight appearances across all competitions, the 26-year-old has netted four goals and notched a further two assists, including one of each in Athletic Club’s Supercopa de Espana triumph the last time these two sides met. Only SD Amorebieta (7) have conceded more goals to Williams now than Barcelona (6) and given Athletic Club’s need for three points to close the gap on the European places, Marcelino will have high expectations for his forward here.
La Liga 2020/21 recent form:
- Barcelona: WWWWD
- Athletic Club: WLWLD
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