Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona have now dropped five points in their last two La Liga outings. After the stalemate against Girona at the weekend, the Catalan giants travelled to Leganes and fell to a 2-1 loss, their first this season, spoiling an impressive start to the season in just four days. They would look to get back to winning ways this weekend when they welcome Athletic Bilbao to Camp Nou on Saturday.
Eduardo Berizzo’s men lost to Villarreal at home in the last round and had picked up just two points from their previous three games. The hosts are expected to take all three points from this tie, but with the Champions League tie against Tottenham Hotspur looming large on the horizon next week, it would be interesting to see if Valverde rests any of his key players. But he should settle for nothing less than all three points and here is the predicted lineup he might field for this tie:
With Clement Lenglet finally back in training, Valverde has a fully fit squad to choose from for this game against Bilbao.
Expected lineup (4-3-3):
Marc Andre ter-Stegen could not do much to stop either of Leganes’ goals earlier in the week. He would hope to have a somewhat comfortable night under the bar, this weekend. Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti struggled at times against the Leganes attackers. They remain one of the best defensive pairs in Europe at the moment and would keep a close eye on the exciting Inaki Williams, in this game.
Valverde used Thomas Vermaelen at left-back against Leganes to give Jordi Alba a break. That decision backfired, and there is no reason for the Spanish speedster to miss out from the starting XI this week. He would start at left-back while Sergi Roberto remains the manager’s best option in the right-back role.
Sergio Busquets had a rather quiet night at Estadio Municipal de Butarque earlier in the week. But he will be crucial this weekend for Barcelona, against a well drilled Bilbao side. He would play in the deepest role with Ivan Rakitic playing in a free-floating role to his right.
Philippe Coutinho, who scored a screamer against Leganes, was unlucky to be on the losing side. His creativity from the midfield will be crucial for Barcelona, to take all three points from this tie.
Munir El Haddadi had no real impact on the game in the striker’s role in the mid-week. He deserves to benched, as Luis Suarez, who was rested for that game, should be back leading the attack for Barcelona. Ousmane Dembele is slowly finding some consistency and could be the danger man for Bilbao in this tie.
Lionel Messi was superb last weekend but was not at his best in the 2-1 loss near Madrid. However, playing at home, he could be ready to put in another mesmerising display this weekend. He will start on the right flank and complete Barcelona’s attack.
Here is how they might line up: