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Barcelona vs Athletic Club: Match Preview

Lewis Shankie

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Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images

After progressing past Real Sociedad on Wednesday evening, Barcelona face a tough Athletic Club side in the Super Cup final. Barça Universal outlines the match preview for the upcoming final.


Date and kickoff Time: Sunday, 17th January 2021, 9PM CET

Stadium: Estadio de La Cartuja

Competition: Spanish Super Cup, Final

Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano


Overview

Barcelona go head-to-head against one of their greatest opponents in history, with the two clubs first meeting in 1902. The Spanish sides share many similarities such as being owned by socios, putting great emphasis on developing players from their youth academy and being among the last clubs to adopt a commercial logo.

Both clubs have also struggled to find their best form this campaign. Athletic Club find themselves 12th in the league and the Blaugrana have only recently moved into third in La Liga. However, there has been signs that both teams are improving. Bilbao’s last three games has seen them win against Elche, narrowly lose to Barça and beating Real Madrid in a hard-fought contest in the semi-final of the Super Cup.

Ronald Koeman’s men will be looking to continue their fine form by picking up some early silverware. The Dutchman has had a rocky start to his time as manager but seems to be steadying the ship game by game. Winning the Super Cup would certainly please Culés and earn him some praise from the fan base. The players too need a big win. In recent seasons, the team has crumbled on the big stage and suffered some demoralising defeats. Victory in the Super Cup will only boost the confidence and morale of the squad.

Los Leones will be aiming to stop Barcelona from reaching their goal of Super Cup glory. The Basques are always one of the most competitive sides in Spain and never give their opponents and easy fixture. They will have extra incentive to win the final after their recent loss to the Catalans and from underperforming in the league.

What to expect from Barcelona?

Club captain Lionel Messi has been a doubt for the final, but reports suggest that the Argentine is desperate to play. It would be a huge boost to the team if the number 10 was available and fully fit. Messi has finally found his best form, and goal scoring touch, in recent matches after an unusually slow start to the season.

Messi’s involvement is in the air. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)

The squad has also found its form in recent games and Ronald Koeman seems to have found the correct positions and roles for his players. Frenkie de Jong has been given a more advanced and free-roaming role. It is the player Culés have been desperate to see since his move from Ajax.

Another player that has been showing their best version again is Sergio Busquets. The Spaniard has not had his best season but was immense in Barcelona’s last two matches. Playing as a single pivot is getting the best out of the midfielder once again, helping the midfield tick. His reading of the game and passing ability helps the Blaugrana play at a much higher intensity, exactly what is needed against a physical side like Athletic Club.

Players such as Pedri, Ronald Araújo and Marc-André ter Stegen have been vital in recent matches too. All three will likely play a major part in the final and deserve to start the game, while €100 mil club members Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann must look to keep up their form.

With such a tough opponent, Barcelona will need to be at their best. Previous matches have shown just how good they can be and this should give the team confidence going into the final. The team have had issues maintaining their consistency this season, but with so many players on form, Barça should be able to produce a memorable performance.

What to expect from Athletic Club?

Athletic club are always a tough team to beat and relish in the challenge of facing top sides like Barcelona. Under their new manager Marcelino Garcia Toral, they have shown they are capable of beating Spain’s best after defeating Real Madrid in the semi final.

Instant impact. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images)

The Basque side are filled with veterans that have played in many big occasions. They will likely be difficult to break down and look to use the pace of Inaki Williams and hit Barcelona on the counter attack. This worked in the previous meeting with Williams scoring inside the first four minutes of the match. Athletic Club are always physical and competitive and will play until the final whistle, something Barça must be aware of.

Player to watch

Pedri

Pedri has made a massive impact during his first season at the club. At just 18 years old, not many could have predicted how important he would become for one of Europe’s biggest clubs. The Spaniard is Ronald Koeman’s favourite, along with many Barça fans. He has shown huge talent and maturity already, working hard on both ends of the pitch, and will be looking to impress in his first official final with Barcelona.

Pedri is a hailstorm. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)

If Lionel Messi does indeed make the final, Pedri is the one that is best suited to complement the Argentine. The two are forming a deadly understanding on the pitch. Pedri has been the missing piece that finds space and links with Barça’s captain in dangerous areas of the pitch. It will be a great watch to see how the former Las Palmas player performs in the final.


Form

FC Barcelona

Previous games: WWWWD

Real Sociedad 1-2 Barcelona | Super Cup
Granada 0-4 Barcelona | La Liga
Athletic Club 2-3 Barcelona | La Liga
Huesca 0–1 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1-1 Eibar | La Liga

Athletic Club

Previous games: WLWLD

Real Madrid 1-2 Athletic Club | Super Cup
Athletic Club 2-3 Barcelona | La Liga
Athletic Club 1-0 Elche | La Liga
Athletic Club 0-1 Real Sociedad | La Liga
Villareal 1-1 Athletic Club | La Liga

Head-to-head record

Previous meetings

Athletic Club 2-3 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Club | La Liga
Athletic Club 1-0 Barcelona | La Liga
Athletic Club 1-0 Barcelona | La Liga
Athletic Club 0-0 Barcelona | La Liga


Match Facts

  • Marcelino beat Barcelona in their last final as manager of Valencia in the Copa del Rey in 2019.
  • Barcelona are unbeaten in their previous nine fixtures.
  • Lionel Messi has scored 26 goals in 38 official games against Athletic Club.

Team News

FC Barcelona

Absences

Injured: Gerard Pique (knee), Ansu Fati (knee), Sergi Roberto (hamstring), Phillipe Coutinho (knee) Suspended: N/A

Possible line-up

4-3-3

ter Stegen
Dest Araújo Lenglet Alba
de Jong Busquets Pedri
Messi Griezmann Dembélé

Coach: Ronald Koeman

Athletic Club

Absences

Injured: Unai Lopez, Peru Nolaskoain, Yuri Berchiche
Suspended: N/A

Possible line-up

4-4-2

Simon
Capa Nunez Martinez Balenziaga
de Marcos Garcia Vencedor Muniain
Garcia Williams

Coach: Marcelino Garcia Toral


Prediction

Both teams have been in better form recently. Athletic Club will still be in high spirits and full of confidence after their win against Real Madrid. However, Barcelona seem to be finding their best version and if Lionel Messi does make the squad, it will give the Catalans a huge boost.

Barça Universal Prediction: 2-1 win for Barcelona



Football is the greatest sport in the world. There is no sporting event that is watched more and is as passionately followed. Any football fan should try and watch Barcelona to understand how football should be played. At Barcelona, football is all about keeping the ball, movement, passing and playing great football above all else. I am a Barça fan from Scotland and have been following the team for over a decade now. I have been lucky enough to watch possibly the greatest era on football ever, and hope it continues.

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Match Previews

Predicted Barcelona lineup against Sevilla — Araujo and Griezmann return

Adithya Eshwarla

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Photo via Imago

Heading into the back to back clashes against Sevilla can surely not be easy for Ronald Koeman. The 2-0 defeat at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan is undoubtedly fresh in the minds of players, one that cannot be forgotten easily.

Action returns on Saturday in La Liga, once again in the stadium that the Catalans recently lost blood in. Points on the League at this stage are vital, and Barcelona cannot afford to let their guard down. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Sevilla

Defence

In goal once again, Marc Andre ter Stegen will continue to star for the Blaugranas. The German has been absolutely vital and stellar once again for his side. Needless to say, his performance on Saturday will account for so much of the result.

Gerard Pique has started three in three games since his return from injury and looked fit as ever. The Spaniard has indeed endured a mixed start, yet not one with mistakes highlighted.

Alongside him will likely be Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan finally returns from injury, and the boost couldn’t come at a better time for Barcelona. Araujo will be crucial for the upcoming decisive clashes in the Catalans schedule.

Araujo returns! (Photo via Imago)

Sergino Dest will return to his duties at right-back, given the weight of the coming clash. Up against the fourth-placed side in the league, Barcelona will have to be equally effective in creating chances from both sides. Something for which the American international’s top form is a necessity.

Jordi Alba will continue to be deputed at left-back after his performance against Elche added yet another goal to his season. The left-back has been renewed indeed and will be vital against Sevilla.

Midfield

With Miralem Pjanic out through injury, Sergio Busquets will almost certainly start for Koeman’s side on Saturday. The midfielders guile and creativity will be the need of the hour at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan.

Busquets will likely be accompanied once again by Frenkie de Jong and Pedri. Over the past few months, the duo has cemented their place in Koeman’s Gala XI and rightfully earned their spot.

Barcelona have always been able to fall back on Pedri, who has been incredibly reliable. (Photo via Imago)

While de Jong’s advanced role is very conspicuous, Pedri has been working harder than ever in the shadows. The youngster has been heavily involved in retrievals, a facet which Barcelona heavily lacked in recent years.

Forward

Fransisco Trincao could not register himself on the scoresheet at the Camp Nou midweek but still had a fantastic performance. It was only a brilliant save from Edgar Badia that denied the Portuguese another feather in his cap. He will start on the right-wing.

Lionel Messi will once again look to lead from the tip of the spear as he continues his sensational goal streak. The La Liga top scorer just cannot be stopped at the moment, and once again, all eyes will be on the Argentine to make the difference on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann was rested against Elche and could make his highly-anticipated comeback in the coming game. Though the dawn of the new century has borne well for the Frenchman, the last few games have seen him slightly get on the wrong foot. He will undoubtedly be looking to get back on scoring terms against Sevilla.

Griezmann will get the chance to make an impact from the start. (Photo via Imago)

Griezmann · Messi · Trincao
Pedri · Busquets · de Jong
Alba · Pique · Araujo · Dest
ter Stegen

Substitution

Riqui Puig on the bench could be a candidate for Koeman to turn to. The La Masia graduate has time and again upped the tempo of the Blaugranas game, providing last-minute firepower that is often invaluable.

Martin Braithwaite pulled off an amazing show against Elche, with two sumptuous assists to be proud of. The Dane could once again be called up against Sevilla to make a difference in the latter half of the game.

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