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FC Barcelona Versus Athletic Bilbao Preview: Team News And Starting Lineup

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 21, 2021

FC Barcelona face Basque opposition for the second week running, and look to extend their 100% record in La Liga thus far against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames in a late Saturday night kick off in Spain.

Getting their campaign off to the perfect start, with a 4-2 win over Athletic Club’s bitter rivals Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou last time out, the assignment represents the Blaugrana’s first away trip of the new term with recent shared history between the two outfits.

Earlier this year, the hosts clinched the Super Cup deep in extra time with a 3-2 win over Ronald Koeman’s men.

But revenge was then struck three months later when the Catalans thrashed their foes 4-0 in the Copa del Rey counterpart to lift their first silverware in since 2019.

To hopefully make it a second win running against this opposition, Koeman will field exactly the same outfit that trounced La Real on Sunday.

This entails Neto in goal as Marc-Andre ter Stegen continues his recovery, with Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest at left and right back.

“He needs to train more. We’ll have to wait and see when he is fit to play,” the Dutchman said on the German.

Forming a central defensive partnership are Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia, who was impressive in his debut after – like the one day presidential candidate – returning home to his boyhood outfit following a short spell with one of the Premier League’s Manchester Giants.

As for Pique, Koeman said he “surprised about all the fuss over” the veteran possibly being unable to feature.

“He took a couple of knocks but nothing major and he can play tomorrow, no worries,” Koeman explained.

In midfield, skipper Sergio Busquets acts as pivot, with Frenkie de Jong and a Pedri about to complete his 75th game since being unveiled a year ago finally afforded a rest from tomorrow for the next two weeks onwards while omitted from Spain’s three upcoming World Cup qualifiers in six days.

“We have decided that the best thing would be for him to play tomorrow but then take a holiday for a fortnight,”  clarified Koeman at his prematch press conference on Friday.

Should any of the trio tire, though, expect them to be replaced by preseason stars Nico Gonzalez, Yusuf Demir or Gavi – with Riqui Puig continuing to be frozen out and watch on.

Up top, two goal and an assist hero Martin Braithwaite is the central target man flanked by Memphis Depay and Antoine Griezmann to either side.

The Dane is clearly ready to fight for his place, with Koeman preferring to keep him.

“Because of the club’s situation, we will listen to any offers. But Martin is very useful because he can play in different positions, and so I’d like him to stay,” the manager stressed.

As for Athletic Club, Koeman said they “have improved a lot.”

“They had a six-week preseason and it shows … We played them four times last year so we know what to expect and we can’t do anything to surprise each other … We must avoid a physical game because that’s their strength and not ours.”

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