Preview: Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao

Bale needs to prove himself again’ – Zinedine Zidane

Barcelona will be under pressure to bounce back against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday after losing their first game of the season this week.

La Liga
Date: 29 September 2018
Game week 7
Kick-off: 16H15 local time/22H15 HKT
Venue: Camp Nou

Referee: S. Jaime
Assistants: J. Bueno, F. Tresaco
Fourth official: D. Pinto

Head-to-head summary

Barcelona 63 42 12 9
Athletic Club 63 9 12 42

Previous encounter

Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Club 18/03/18 (La Liga)

Barcelona goalscorers: P. Alcacer (8′), L. Messi (30′)

Players to watch

Lionel Messi remains Barca’s most lethal weapon. The Argentine has already bagged eight goals and four assists in only eight games, while 21-year-old winger Ousmane Dembele has also been in terrific form with five goals in as many games.

With veteran striker Aritz Aduriz sidelined, Athletic will be hoping 22-year-old forward Gorka Guruzeta comes good against Barca. He has only made a few substitute appearances so far but could be given a start on Saturday.

Team form and manager quotes

The Catalans have endured a difficult week following a perfect start to their season. Ernesto Valverde’s men won six consecutive games across all competitions before dropping points at home against Girona last Sunday, when they drew 2-2.

The disappointment of the draw was compounded on Wednesday when they suffered their first defeat of the campaign. Barca lost 2-1 at Leganes despite taking the lead through Philippe Coutinho.

Speaking to the club’s official website after the defeat, Valverde said: “It’s not a result that can be explained. It’s not an easy moment. We weren’t expecting this.

“(But) we need to expect that things like this can happen and we have to be ready to turn things around when they get difficult.”

He added: “We have another important game on Saturday in front of our fans. We have to pick ourselves up and we’ll need everyone’s help to do that.”

Meanwhile, Athletic have struggled for form thus far and will come into the clash on the back of a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Villarreal on Wednesday.

Athletic Bilbao kicked off their season with a 2-1 win over Leganes, but has since failed to win another game, drawing three and losing one. They occupy 15th position in the standings, but have a game in hand due to a postponed fixture.

Los Leones manager Eduardo Berizzo told the press after losing to Villarreal: “I don’t like to lose and when we do I want to train immediately. Losing is a way to learn. We will go over the game and look at what we did wrong and the things that we can improve and change.”

Athletic have not beaten Barcelona at Camp Nou since 2001.

Team news

Barca have no serious injury concerns and are expected to bring Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba back into the starting line-up.

Athletic are expected to be without striker Aritz Aduriz, who is still sidelined since picking up a knock in the season opener.