Competition: La Liga 2019/20
Matchday: Matchday 31
Date and Time: Tuesday, Jun 23, 10 pm CET
Venue: Camp Nou Stadium, Barcelona, Spain
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano
After the rather disappointing draw at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville, Barcelona face a tough test at home against 9th place Athletic Club de Bilbao. With the games coming thick and fast,the Barcelona faithful don’t have time to brood over past results. This is one of the 4 most important games left (i.e. Barcelona derby,Athletico (home) and Villareal (away)) out of the remaining 8 ‘finals’ for Messi and co. in a bid to retain the league title.
At the current stage,Madrid are leading the table (on head to head record),with Barcelona having a chance to put pressure on the leaders if they get back to winning ways. The visitors themselves are 6 points from a Europa league spot and this win would mean a lot to them too.
Since the restart,the Basque club have played Atletico and Eibar,drawing both games.While beating Real Betis by a solitary goal over the weekend.
Barcelona on the other hand came off the blocks rather quickly after the restart by thrashing Mallorca 4-0,but have since slumbered scoring only 2 goals in over 180 minutes on the back of two moments of individual brilliances.The positive side ,though, is that ter Stegen has kept 4 consecutive clean sheets since the el Clasico game.
Considering Barcelona’s strong home record and Athletic’s rather poor away form (winning just 2 games),this will be a very interesting matchup.The visitors however come in good spirits having won both their encounters against the Blaugrana this season.
The two teams previously met at the San Mames stadium (in Bilbao) in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal back in February. Having changed coaches mid-season, Barcelona played it’s 6th match under Qique Setien,already showing flavors of the type of football most Barca faithful longed to see.
The away side would build up from the back and use good runs from deep (especially from de Jong),to run behind the high defensive line. It was the first time (and last time since),that ter Stegen and the defense were found guilty of loosing the ball during build-up that resulted in a few dangerous shots from close range.
Garitano on the other hand played with a very solid back 3,pressing high and attacking with pace. The home side were very potent down the wings,with full backs putting crosses into the far corners for the forwards to tuck in,though they didn’t have many shots on target.
After a very good performance from Barcelona,they were unlucky to loose,after a floated cross towards the back post was put into his own net by an unsuspecting Busquets.
Athletico Bilbao are very solid defensively,having conceded the second least number of goals and second most number of clean sheets. Unlike other strong defensive teams though,they are not shy to push forward and win a good percentage of turnovers high up the field.
Most of the assists for the Basque club come from the full backs,Andre Capa and Yuri,both of whom play very high.
On the attacking end,we can expect the pacy Inaki Williams to lead the line with Iker Muniain as a 10 and former Atletico veteran Raul Garcia,along with his name sake Dani Garcia expected to make the line-up.
With Yuri Berchiche picking up a suspension for this game, Garitano will have to decide between playing a defensively solid back three and a 4-2-3-1 that he’s favored for the past few games.
Barcelona on the other hand will miss de Jong and Roberto,who are out with injuries.
The dutchman will be dearly missed for his pressing ability and well timed runs,that were used to unlock the stringent defense the last time around
In the absence of the former,Arthur seems to be the only press resistant interior capable of bringing the ball out and playing passes thorough opposition lines to progress the ball. This might also be a good opportunity to reinstate his authority over the first team and put an end to the speculation surrounding his transfer. While Busquets and Vidal are expected to keep their places,Riqui Puig is expected in a late cameo.
With Roberto sidelined,Semedo will get another chance to impress,while the rest of the backline is expected to remain the same.
After a dreadful 90 minutes in Seville,having missed the best opportunity,Suarez is expected to be replaced by Greizmann with the support of Ansu Fati on the left and Messi on the right.