Athletic Club welcome Barcelona in a rescheduled La Liga game from the start of the season on Wednesday evening.
A win over Elche on Sunday was not enough for Gaizka Garitano to retain his role as Athletic’s head coach. With the Basque side in ninth place in the table, former Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral quickly replaced Garitano, taking charge of his first training session just 48 hours before Barcelona visit.
Ronald Koeman was a new fixture for the Catalan side this summer and has threatened to put in decent form in recent weeks. Barcelona enter the competition in the unknown position of fifth, but would climb third with all three points.
When does the kick-off take place? Wednesday January 6
What time is the kick-off? 8:00 p.m. (GMT)
Where is it played? Estadio San Mames
TV channel / live broadcast? LaLiga TV (UK), fuboTV (US)
Arbitrator? Carlos Del Cerro Grande
The Athletic will be without midfielder Unai Lopez, who is still recovering from a knee injury, and center-back Yeray Alvarez, as he continues to struggle with a muscle problem that has put him at risk. gap in the last two matches.
Those on the Barcelona treatment table are absent for long periods. The Catalans saw Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto limp against Atletico Madrid earlier in the campaign, joining Ansu Fati in rehab. Philippe Coutinho is expected to be out of action for three months after undergoing knee surgery.
Athletic club: Simon; Capa, Nunez, Martinez, Berchiche; From Marcos, Vesga, Garcia, Muniain; Williams, Villalibre.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; De Jong, Busquets; Messi, Pedri, Dembele; Griezmann.
Athletic Club 1-0 Elche (3/1)
Athletic Club 0-1 Real Sociedad (31/12)
Villarreal 1-1 Athletic Club (22/12)
Athletic Club 2-0 Huesca (18/12)
Real Madrid 3-1 Athletic Club (15/12)
Huesca 0-1 Barcelona (3/1)
Barcelona 1-1 Eibar (29/12)
Real Valladolid 0-3 Barcelona (22/12)
Barcelona 2-2 Valencia (19/12)
Barcelona 2-1 Real Sociedad (16/12)
While Athletic have the intangible quality of a “new managerial rebound” on their side, the upcoming competition can be roughly presented as a reunion of two teams whose forces reside at different ends of the pitch.
Athletic can boast of La Liga’s third best defensive record according to expected goals (xG) against, but Barcelona can name the division’s number one attack based on their xG going forward, according to FBRef. Essentially Barcelona are creating very good chances and Athletic don’t offer much.
However, in the battle between Barcelona’s attack and Athletic’s defense, the Catalans can boast of the game’s ultimate asset: Messi.
Prediction: Athletic Club 0-2 Barcelona