Barcelona have a chance to equal Real Madrid’s points tally with a win against Athletic Bilbao, who they host on Sunday in La Liga.
Barcelona host Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou on Sunday evening, in a clash that could be very significant in deciding the La Liga standings. With a win, Ronald Koeman’s men could go level on points with Real Madrid in second place, with a better goal difference but an inferior head-to-head record against the Merengues.
Koeman will not be able to call upon Sergio Busquets who is suspended. The Dutchman however does have the availability of Sergi Roberto and Lionel Messi, the latter having completed a two-match suspension last weekend. Against a side that has beaten Barca in the Spanish Super Cup, the Catalans will not be affording any lapses.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen will keep his place in goal. The German has been on top of his game recently. His form is also thanks to an in-form defence. Clement Lenglet will partner Ronald Araujo in the central defensive roles, whereas Oscar Mingueza and Jordi Alba will start as the right and left backs, respectively.
Busquets’ absence will open the door to Miralem Pjanic, who will form a double pivot ahead of the backline with Frenkie de Jong. The duo’s defensive resilience will come very handy against a side that plays on the counter-attack and has very quick players. Pjanic, who has been an outcast so far will have a chance to show his worth on an important matchday.
Pedri has been making a name for himself of late and will keep his place in the starting eleven. He will be the attacking midfielder in Koeman’s new 4-3-3 formation. The youngster scored and assisted a goal when these two sides last met in the league. He will look to replicate a solid performance this time around.
Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi have caught up with form at the right time. The two will start on the left and right wings, respectively. Messi scored two in the La Liga meeting between these two some weeks ago. Antoine Griezmann, perhaps Barca’s most in-form player will lead the line after scoring four times in as many matches in all competitions.