La Liga leaders Barcelona travel to San Mamaes looking to extend their advantage at the top of the standings in a clash against out-of-sorts Basque side Athletic Bilbao, who are without a win in their last three games.
Big Test Amidst Poor Patch
Athletic Bilbao made a great start to the new season with five wins and two draws in six matches across all competition but their efforts got undone with Basque side suffering a significant drop in form which saw them win only one of their last 11 matches. A seriously sketchy run of form is unlikely to be broken against the league leaders Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao are well-aware of the challenge that lies ahead. Los Leones are sitting in 11th place in the standings with 11 points next to their name and another defeat could possibly push them into the bottom part of the table knowing they are only five points above the relegation zone. The Basque side will be relying in their strong home form which could count for nothing, however, knowing Athletic lost five of the last seven home meetings with Barcelona.
The long injury list will most certainly play its part in not helping the hosts. Iker Muniain is suffering from a knee problem, together with his namesake Undabarrena whereas there’s every chance in the world hosts will also be without Alvarez, Balenziaga and de Marcos for the Saturday showdown.
Valverde Returns Home
Ernesto Valverde returns to Estadio San Mames for the first time since taking charge of Barcelona last summer. It will be an emotional comeback for the manager who will have nothing but three points on his mind though. Barcelona have made close to a perfect start to the season and are determine to maintain their advantage at the top. Four points ahead of second-placed Valencia, Barcelona only dropped points in that hard-fought 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid two weeks ago. The Catalans have been impressive in their exploits, scoring whopping 26 goals in nine league matches. Ernesto Valverde has tightened his side at the back and Barcelona have conceded mere three goals thus far. In addition to their fantastic start to domestic season, Barcelona have maintained a perfect record in the Champions League as well and Messi, Suarez and co. are coming to town feeling positive and optimistic.
Summer acquisition from Borussia Dortmund Ousmane Dembele and Brazilian winger Rafinha remain the long-term absentees, whereas Ernesto Valverde is also unlikely to be able to call upon Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal who are both suffering from ankle problems.
The numbers speak for themselves and the stats are quite revealing as well. Barcelona are holding an upper hand on the out-of-form Basque side and are expected to record a comfortable win.
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