FC Barcelona (4th, 37pts) vs Athletic Bilbao (10th, 24pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2020-21 La Liga, Matchday 21
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Gerard Piqué, Philippe Coutinho, Sergio Busquets (out), Sergi Roberto, Sergiño Dest (doubt)
Athletic Outs & Doutbs: Peru Nolaskoain, Mikel Balenziaga (out), Iñigo Martínez (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, January 31, 2021, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
VAR: José Luis Munuera Montero
How to watch on TV: beIN SPORTS (USA & Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), Not Available (India), others
Following a comeback win over Rayo Vallecano in midweek to move on to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, Barcelona turn their attentions back to La Liga for a crucial match against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday at the Greatest Stadium on Earth.
It’s taken literally an entire month for Barcelona to play a home game after eight straight road trips in the first 30 days of January, but the Blaugrana are back in their stadium for what promises to be a very tough match against what’s quickly becoming a renewed rivalry for Barça.
Back when Athletic were the best team in Spain these two clubs didn’t like each other, and after the two previous games between them this month after Marcelino García Toral took over as manager at San Mamés, this is starting to feel a lot like a team that Barça players and fans REALLY dislike.
The physical Spanish Super Cup final was a hard-fought battle that ended in pain for Barça and the first red card of Lionel Messi’s Barça career after enduring 120 minutes of near brutality from the Bilbao players. Athletic are a defensive, counter-attacking team under Marcelino who are already really good and looking to climb up the table in La Liga after a rough start with the previous coach.
Barça don’t need to be warned about the challenge facing them this Sunday. Athletic are good and tough and looking for points in the league, but the Blaugrana could make it 10 straight games unbeaten in the league and finish the weekend equal on points with second place Real Madrid if they win.
This will be tough and probably frustrating, but Barça can definitely win. And they must shut up Athletic. They’re too annoying already.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; De Jong, Pjanic, Pedri; Dembélé, Messi, Griezmann
Athletic (4-4-2): Simón; Capa, Yeray, Núnez, Yuri; De Marcos, D. García, Vencedor, Muniain; Williams, R. García
You know what? I really want Barça to destroy Athletic on this one and even though I think the game will be close, I’m going with 4-1 to the good guys, Messi hat-trick. I want this to feel cathartic.