Copa del Rey draw had no mercy to Athletic Bilbao, who will face the Catalan giants in the quarter-finals of the competitions just a couple of days after their heavy loss at Camp Nou.
Ernesto Valverde’s charges have the toughest task possible ahead of them in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals. Los Leones have been in poor form lately, winning only two of their last five games in all competitions. However, their latest 6-0 slump to the Catalan giants on Sunday will have come as the huge blow to team’s morale and Valverde will have to act fast if he wants to lift the team spirit ahead of the first leg of Copa del Rey quarter-finals. Bilbao’s trip to Camp Nou turned sour after only a couple of minutes in the game as Gorka Iraizoz committed a foul on Luis Suarez and was dismissed after only four minutes. Bilbao were unable to resist the pressure from the Catalans who were merciless in their rout. Bilbao have ultimately dropped to ninth place in the standings and are four points away from the European places in the La Liga standings. Back-to-back league defeats have come as a huge disappointment and Coppa del Rey match could be an opportunity to get back to winning ways. It will be easier said than done though. Aritz Aduriz is coming back to the fold after his suspension and the team’s top scorer will improve Bilbao’s chances of making something out of the game with Barcelona.
Ibai Gomez and Raul Garcia are both out of contention due to their knee injuries, while Gorka Iraizoz is suspended.
Barcelona have continued their impressive run and are now on a five-match winning stretch in all competition. Luis Enrique’s team is unbeaten since early October 2015 and have so far demonstrated impressive performances going from strength to strength. Blaugrana are coming off from a 6-0 win over the same rivals on Sunday when the Catalanas treated their fans with a proper goal feast. Luis Suarez has been particularly impressive with his hat-trick and Uruguay striker will be willing to continue his fantastic scoring exploits. Suarez has scored 29 goals in last 29 games for his team and there is no stopping for one of the best strikers in the world. However, the Uruguay striker will be unavailable through suspension, but Barca have plenty of fire power to replace their top scorer. European and Spanish champions are keen on extending their formidable run and keep pushing towards the trophies in all fronts. Barca have booked their place in the quarter-finals with an aggregate 6-1 win over their local rivals Espanyol and it must be noted that Barcelona allowed only one goal in their last eight games in all competitions.
Barcelona are coming into the game with Athletic Bilbao without their long-term absentee Rafinha, while Jeremy Mathieu, Adriano and Jordi Alba are also injured. Lionel Messi picked a knock against Bilbao on Sunday, but should be fit to play. As said before, Suarez is suspended.
Second of the three games between Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona in two weeks comes after the thrashing at Camp Nou and home team will be keen on getting one back to their rivals. If Athletic Bilbao open up and go full throttle ahead I expect to see plenty of goals in this fixture.
Top Pick: Over 3.5 goals 2.8 (9/5) @Unibet
Alternative Pick 1: Away win 1.7 (7/10) @BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: HT/FT Away win 2.65 (28/17) @888sports