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Everything to lose

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Athletic Club vs Barcelona preview

The news of Jurgen Klopp leaving Liverpool gathered so much attention that it eclipsed Xavi’s departure from Barcelona, which was announced 24 hours after the former news, to a large extent. This can be down to Xavi’s underwhelming achievement at the club. However, with his time coming to an end, the players would want to give him a proper send-off by winning a trophy or two. The main focus will be on La Liga, where the Blaugrana are in third place and trail league leaders Real Madrid by eight points.

To make matters more difficult, their next trip comes on the road against Athletic Club Bilbao, one of the most formidable opponents in the entire league. While Xavi’s men are chasing the title, their opponents are also in an intense race for the Champions League places.

This season, Barcelona have been ravaged by injuries, which is why they find themselves losing so much ground to other teams in the league. However, they have recovered their form by winning four and drawing one of their last five games. Robert Lewandowski has been the major reason for this resurgence, scoring four goals and providing one assist during this run of games.

Their latest game saw them thrash Getafe 4-0, in which youngster Fermin Lopez also scored his second La Liga goal. While Lewandowski is scoring goals, the best players creatively are Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gundogan, who top the league in Expected Threats (xT) and chances created, respectively.

Meanwhile, Athletic Club have lost their incredible momentum after drawing two and losing one of their previous five games. However, they have Ernesto Valverde, a former Barcelona manager, in the dugout who exploits the defending champions’ weaknesses.

Athletic Club have hugely relied on the attacking duo of Inaki Williams and Gorka Guruzeta, who have combined for 19 goals. Other top performers have been Nico Williams (the top assist maker in the team), Oihan Sancet, and Yeray Alvarez.

Athletic Club vs Barcelona predicted lineups

Athletic Club lineup

One of the major worries for Valverde will be the suspension of his left-winger Nico Williams and centre-back Dani Vivian. Both these men have been crucial to the team, and it will be a tall order for the team to face Barcelona without them. On top of that, left-back Yuri Berchiche is also an injury concern for the clash but is expected to be fit in time for the clash. In the absence of Willimas, Alex Berenguer will take his place on the team.

With such a weakened squad, Valverde’s men have to focus on minimising the errors and ensuring they take every chance that comes their way.

Athletic Club starting XI: Simon; Berchiche, Paredes, Vivian, De Marcos; Prados, Ruiz de Galarreta; ,Berenguer, Sancet, Inaki Williams; Guruzeta 

Barcelona lineup

The injury to Gavi has been disastrous for Barcelona as they have yet to find an adequate replacement who could dominate the midfield space the same way the Spaniard did. Left-back Alejandro Balde is also out for the season. However, Raphinha, Pedri, and Iñigo Martínez have recovered, coinciding with their incredible league run.

The club has no suspensions, but players like Lewandowski, Ronald Araujo, Oriol Romeu, and Joao Cancelo are on the verge of suspension. They will need to be alert during the game.

Barcelona starting XI: Ter Stegen; Cancelo, Cubarsi, Araujo, Kounde; Gundogan, Christensen, De Jong; Felix, Lewandowski, Raphinha

Athletic Club vs Barcelona predictions 

This game is not a clash between two top teams but is also an opportunity for them to make a solid base as they prepare for the business end of the season. Barcelona have momentum on their side and know that they can’t afford to allow any more slip-ups if they are to defend their title.

On the other hand, Athletic Club are in search of a morale-boosting victory that can help them return to form. Both teams are stacked with talented players, but with the suspension of Nico Williams and other injuries, Barcelona are likely to edge the game by a thin margin.

FootTheBall predicts a 1-0 win for Barcelona.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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