Back at Camp Nou at last! After an extraordinary (all-time record) run of eight away fixtures, Barça are back in their home stadium for Sunday’s Liga fixture (9.00pm CET) against Athletic Club.
It’s a familiar opponent. The teams have already met twice this month, once in the league and once in the Super Cup, with one win each. After a run of four leagues wins in a row (and all away from home), Barça could now go second in the table with a win.
Head to head
17/01/21 (SUPER CUP) Barça 2 (Griezmann 2) Athletic 3
06/01/21 (LIGA) Athletic 2 Barça 3 (Pedri, Messi 2)
23/06/20 (LIGA) Barça 1 (Rakitic) Athletic 0
06/02/20 (COPA) Athletic 1 Barça 0
16/08/19 (LIGA) Athletic 1 Barça 0
The teams met just two weeks ago in the Spanish Super Cup Final, a game Barça looked to be on good course to win before a late equaliser from Asier Villalibre and an Iñaki Williams goal in extra time sealed victory for the Basques.
And just a fortnight before that, the same teams met at San Mamés in a rearranged La Liga fixture. On that occasion Williams scored early and it was Barça who came from behind in another game that ended 3-2.
In all competitions, Barça have only beaten Athletic twice in their last seven meetings, which include the painful 1-0 defeat in the Copa del Rey last season. But at Camp Nou it has tended to be a far more positive story. Athletic have lost on all but one of their last sixteen visits (a 1-1 draw in 2018) and haven’t actually won away to Barça since 2001.
Athletic form guide
Last five games
COPA: Alcoyano 1-2 Athletic
LIGA: Athletic 5-1 Getafe
COPA: UD Ibiza 1-2 Athletic
SUPER CUP: Barça 2-3 Athletic
LIGA: Athletic 2-3 Barça
The Basques have been having a strangely irregular season, alternating between good and bad results and as yet not having managed to register back-to-back wins in the league. Winning the Spanish Super Cup has brought a massive injection of morale, and they were in clinical form last week as they despatched Getafe 5-1 at San Mamés.
They’re also still involved in the Copa del Rey, and will be playing Real Betis in Thursday’s quarter final – curiously while they still have yet to play last year’s final against local rivals Real Sociedad!
How La Liga stands
Barça started the weekend third, and have hopefully only temporarily dropped to fourth after Sevilla moved above them by winning 2-0 at Eibar.
In fact, following Real Madrid’s 2-1 defeat at home to Levante, a win on Sunday would send them leaping up to second, their highest position of the season so far.
Villarreal and Real Sociedad, fifth and sixth, drew 1-1, while runaway leaders Atlético Madrid are away to Cádiz on Sunday afternoon (4.15pm CET).
“We can’t surprise each other after two games between us already this month. They had chances to win both games and did so in the Super Cup. They’re physically strong and very good at set pieces… free kicks, corners… So we’ll need to concentrate and make sure we take our chances and not give away unnecessary free kicks. The referee will be a factor in that too.”
“We know we’re in a difficult situation in the league, but we’ll keep trying while it’s still possible. At Barça, the idea is always to win titles, but you also have to be realistic.”
“Sergio Roberto really wants to play tomorrow. There is a chance he will.”
“Umtiti has been out with an injury but he’s recovered well and is part of our plans. Mingueza has a played a lot of games at full back and centre back. We’ll see what happens in the future. Every player has to prove their worth.”.
On Sunday morning, the squad for the match was announced with the following players called up by Ronald Koeman:
Ter Stegen, Araujo, Griezmann, Pjanić, Braithwaite, Messi, O. Dembélé, Riqui Puig, Neto, Lenglet, Pedri, Trincão, Jordi Alba, Matheus, S. Roberto, F. de Jong, Umtiti, Junior, Ilaix, O. Mingueza, Konrad and Arnau Tenas.