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Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona: Preview and Prediction

Athletic Bilbao, fresh off their Copa del Rey final berth secured with a thumping 4-0 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid, make a triumphant return to La Liga action, intent on toppling another league giant.

The chances of doing the same to Barcelona seem slim going by recent meetings between the two sides, with Athletic failing to win any of their last eight La Liga matches against the Catalan giants (1D, 7L).

Hope springs eternal that they can break that streak at San Mames, given Athletic have won ten consecutive matches in all competitions there and are unbeaten in La Liga since the opening day of the season (10W, 2D).

That run includes a 4-2 Copa del Rey win over Barcelona, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Athletic do the same, having scored at least twice in 14 of their last 15 outings at San Mames.

But it’s fair to say that of all teams in La Liga, FC Barcelona are best-placed to buck that trend, having won four consecutive away matches.

Those victories have helped Xavi’s side establish a firm grip on a top-four spot, and with Athletic in fifth, this is the perfect opportunity to extend their lead over the chasing pack.

Finishing in the Champions League places is now the sole realistic ambition for Barca who, barring a catastrophic slip-up from league leaders Real Madrid, are seemingly out of the title race.

They will undoubtedly continue to fight, and are unbeaten in their last 14 visits to the Basque Country (11W, 3D), their last defeat there coming in August 2019!

Players to watch: Gorka Guruzeta wrapped up the scoring in the Copa del Rey tie in midweek, but it’s worth noting that he has opened the scoring at home on five occasions this season. Expect İlkay Gündoğan, who has scored his last four club goals after the break, to make a late impact.

Hot stat: No La Liga team has led more games at half-time this season than Athletic (13).

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