La Liga: Athletic Bilbao- Barcelona
Super Cup meeting here just nine days casts a very long shadow over this match, Athletic won that 4-0 a result which would have left the European champions not only stirred, but shaken, they took the lead in the second leg three days later, but once Bilbao had equalised it was game over and Barce were left to lick their wounds in the Camp Nou in front of a crowd of 90,000 , with only the visiting fans celebrating and if you don't think that will have hurt as must as the humbling in Bilbao, then you do not understand the Barce mentality, it could only have been worse if Real had been the opposition !
There has been talk of a crisis at the Catalan giants after the transfer embargo, loss of Xavi and Pedro and the eight goals conceded in basically three halves of football versus Sevilla and Athletic, but nobody was saying that when they were 4-1 up with about an hour gone in the former and you do not write off the best team in Europe after one "friendly" ( which is basically what it is) defeat . They will be without Gerard Pique tonight who is suspended after losing it big time in the return leg with Bilbao, but that highlights how painful the experience was and Neymar is still recovering from his illness.
On the plus side they will have Claudio Bravo back in goal, it was Marc-André Ter Stegen who conceded the eight and Jordi Alba will also return to further strengthen the backline. Boss Luis Enrique feels this game will be very different.....
“Despite the fact that we have played against them twice already, the context of the game will help us more than the previous two. "We'll be fresher with more good training sessions under our belt while, on the other hand, Athletic are coming off a demanding and important game.”
He was talking about the Europa League game which Athletic played on Thursday, they actually rested half their squad for the trip to Slovakia and were coasting at 2-0 with just a quarter of the game to play, but Zilina scored three late goals to win the tie and now Athletic will have to take the return this coming week far more seriously than they would have liked and they do treat the Europa League with great respect. They are without a couple of key players themselves in Munian, Iturraspe and San Jose, but the real issue today is that they are going to face a Barcelona team who have had their pride dented and one desperate for revenge and looking to start their domestic league campaign with a win. Barce scored ten goals in three starts against Bilbao last season, including five here in San Mames, with Messi having a goal and three assists and, with the hosts short in the holding department tonight, he could again have a big night. Barce are a big hungry dog who have been prodded with a sharp stick twice already this month, you do not get away with that too often and regardless of line up, it feels like payback time.
Barcelona -1 goal 2.04 asian line/Sportmarket.