11 February 2019
An improving Athletic Bilbao side host La Liga leaders Barcelona to the Estadio San Mames desperately looking to end a ten-game LL winless streak against the Catalan giants (D1, L9).
Having suffered just one loss in their previous eight La Liga outings (W4, D3, L1), the hosts have finally escaped the relegation territory, but they still have a long way to go before securing the top-flight survival. The one thing Gaizka Garitano can rely on ahead of this encounter is the fact his players feel far more comfortable at home, as four of Athletic’s five LL triumphs have come at San Mames. But, for them, goals have been at a premium during the past couple of months. Los Leones’ attacking problems have seen them score over 1.5 goals per match in just two of their last ten games across all competitions, though failing to hit the net only once in the process. Surely the most important aspect for Bilbao in this clash will concern their defensive game that has proved to be more than looking at their recent home outings. Atheltic’s backline has preserved four clean slates in the previous six LL fixtures, restricting their opponents to one match goal in the remaining two.
On the other hand, the visitors are eager to stretch a ten-game La Liga unbeaten run (W8, L2) and keep second-placed Atletico Madrid on a six-point distance. The reigning holders have racked up a four-game LL road winning streak coming into this meeting, as they stand as the only Spanish team to secure seven wins after ten league road trips (W7, D2, L1). The Blaugrana’s tally of 60 goals scored in 22 LL clashes is a comfortable league high, with the Catalans also bagging more goals away from home than any other Spanish team so far (22). To make things even more complicated for the hosts, Ernesto Valverde’s men have conceded the fewest goals on the road in the Spanish top tier this term (8), keeping a clean sheet in three of their last four LL road clashes.
Provisional line-up – Athletic Bilbao:
Gk: Herrerin Defense: Berchiche – San Jose – Inigo Martinez – Alvarez Midfield: Oscar de Marcos – Ibai Gomez – Dani Garcia Attack: Cordoba – Inaki Williams – Muniain
Provisional line-up – Barcelona:
Gk: Marc-Andre ter Stegen Defense: Vermaelen – Pique – Sergi Roberto – Semedo Midfield: Arturo Vidal – Rakitic – Carles Alena Attack: Coutinho – Suarez – Leo Messi
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