clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How will Barcelona line up against Athletic Bilbao in La Liga?

The leaders make a brutal trip to San Mamés this Sunday

FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona enjoyed a rare full week of training and rest and are now ready for two crucial La Liga matches on their title chase, and the first battle is a brutal one as they travel to San Mamés for one of the most difficult away games in the league against Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Bilbao.

Barça come into this one with a nine-point lead at the top of the La Liga table and can increase their gap over Real Madrid to at least 12 points with 12 matches to go if they win El Clásico next week, but in order to maintain their current advantage they have to find a way to win at one of the toughest environments in the country.

Athletic are winless in their last four games but always present Barça with a very tough challenge in their home stadium, and badly need an upset against the leaders to get back in contention for European places. Here’s how we think Barça will line up on Sunday.


FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Xavi Hernández and his troops certainly welcome the full seven days of preparation for this after a very busy and difficult schedule in February, with the team looking exhausted and the squad suffering with injuries at the worst possible time.

The boss will once again miss key pieces for this one, including a massive part of the best defense in the league as Ronald Araujo is out due to suspension for his red card last week. Marcos Alonso is the favorite to replace the Uruguayan at center-back alongside Andreas Christensen, with Jules Kounde and Alejandro Balde once again starting in the full-back spots.


FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

There is a growing optimism that Pedri will be ready for next week’s Clásico, but Barça’s most creative force has been ruled out for this one due to his hamstring injury. The good news is Gavi is back from suspension, which most likely maintains the four-midfielder system that Xavi has adopted for almost every game since the start of 2023.

Frenkie De Jong played only 45 minutes to not risk injury last week but is fully healthy and available for this one, and the Dutchman will start alongside Sergio Busquets in midfield. With Gavi expected on the left wing, the fourth midfield spot most likely goes to Franck Kessie, though Sergi Roberto has seen plenty of time in recent weeks and could be a surprise selection on Sunday.


UD Almeria v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

The big, big news for this one is the return of Robert Lewandowski, who is fully recovered from the hamstring strain that kept him out of the last two games but wasn’t serious enough to rule him out for an extended period of time. It’s a true testament to the Pole’s physical attributes and work ethic, and his comeback is crucial for an attack struggling for goals without him.

Ousmane Dembélé isn’t expected back until after the international break and both Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati are still searching for consistency, so Raphinha is the logical choice to complete the lineup after his game-winning performance last week.

Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Christensen, Alonso, Balde; Kessie, Busquets, De Jong; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Gavi (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!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Barca Blaugranes Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Barca news from Barca Blaugranes