Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Preview, Predictions & Betting Tips
Spain La Liga | San Mames Barria | 16th August 20.00
Barcelona head into Friday night’s La Liga opener looking for redemption. The Blaugrana won La Liga last season, but their failures in the Champions League and Copa del Rey overshadowed that trophy.
On Friday night, Barcelona will travel north to the Basque Country to play rivals Athletic Bilbao. The Lions finished eighth last season, narrowly missing out on Europa League qualification.
Athletic Bilbao manager Gaizka Garitano should go into the first match of the season full of confidence. The Lions took two points from six last season against Barcelona as both matches ended in draws. Their first encounter at Camp Nou finished 1-1 after Athletic Bilbao took a 41st minute lead thanks to Oscar de Marcos. Barcelona levelled the score in the 84th minute through Munir El Haddadi.
Aritz Aduriz spent most of last season injured but appears to be back to full fitness and should start on Friday. He is likely to be joined in attack by Inaki Williams while Raul Garcia is expected to feature in midfield.
Barcelona are undefeated against Athletic Bilbao in their last six matches in all competitions. Four of those matches ended in Blaugrana wins. The La Liga champions were excellent in preseason and head into the opening weekend off the back of four straight victories. Ernesto Valverde’s men are expected to begin their title defence with a win and are priced at odds of 1.61 to triumph at San Mames.
Reports in Spain indicate Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde will not start Messi on Friday night. In fact, the Argentina is unlikely to play in the match. Messi did not play during Barcelona’s preseason nor is his fitness match ready. Even without Messi, Barcelona have Luis Suarez and new signing Antoine Griezmann. Barcelona should have enough attacking quality to get past Bilbao. Luis Suarez is coming off an excellent preseason campaign with three goals in as many matches while Antoine Griezmann will take plenty of confidence from his goal against Napoli.