Barcelona look to keep the momentum going from their excellent win against Villarreal with another tough test at Camp Nou as they welcome Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night for a big La Liga match.
After the disasters against Inter Milan and Real Madrid, Barça rebounded in an important way against the Yellow Submarine with a strong performance and a dominant victory. But Villarreal were missing their best players through injury, so it’ll take a big win against a really good team to prove that they’re on the right track again.
And Athletic is a really good team, one of the very best in this early league season thanks to a great job by former Barça manager Ernesto Valverde, and the Blaugrana will need to be at their very best to win this one. Here’s how we think Xavi Hernández’s troops will line up on Sunday.
Xavi has some big decisions to make when it comes to rotating his squad in this one with the big Champions League game against Bayern Munich right around the corner, but having already made changes for the Villarreal match it is unlikely we see a deep rotation of the side for the visit of Los Leones.
But there probably will be a couple of changes at the back, with Jules Kounde likely to be rested for this one having just returned from injury. Eric García didn’t play on Thursday so it’s safe to assume he’ll come in for Kounde, and Héctor Bellerín will probably start at right-back to give Sergi Roberto a rest before Bayern.
Marcos Alonso likely retains his place at center-back unless Xavi decides to give Gerard Piqué another chance, and Jordi Alba should remain the left-back after his excellent showing on Thursday.
Frenkie de Jong had a wonderful performance against Villarreal and deserves an extended run in the position he was meant to play at Barça all along, and the Dutchman’s stamina allows him to start several games in a row. Sergio Busquets shouldn’t be anywhere near the starting lineup for now, but would be the favorite to replace Frenkie in case Xavi decides to rest De Jong for Bayern.
Pedri played all 90 minutes against Villarreal which suggests he won’t be starting this one, and Franck Kessie would be his replacement alongside De Jong and Gavi in the middle of the park.
Ansu Fati joins De Jong on the list of players who deserve an extended run of games after his performance against Villarreal, and it’s very clear that the Prince is much better as a starter with time to get into the game instead of being a substitute with the pressure to change things right away.
Fati should start on the left wing, and Ousmane Dembélé is probably returning to the side after getting a rest on Thursday. Robert Lewandowski would benefit from a rest before Bayern, in which case Ferran Torres would likely start up front as a false nine. But with Lewy substituted early against Villarreal, it’s unlikely the Pole is left out of the team for this one.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Bellerín, Eric, Alonso, Alba; Kessie, De Jong, Gavi; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Fati (4-3-3)
How do you think Barcelona should line up against Athletic Bilbao? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!