The Barcelona receives Athletic Club at the Camp Nou, this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. GMT), to extend the good run of four consecutive victories that the azulgranas treasure in The league and, incidentally, avenge the defeat against Bilbao two weeks ago in the final of the Spanish Super Cup (2-3).
So far in 2021, the culé team has shown its most regular facet in LaLiga chaining four wins in a row at home in Huesca (0-1), Pomegranate (0-4), Elche (0-2) and in San Mamés against Athletic itself (2-3). Now, at the start of the second round of the championship, it is the lions who visit the Camp Nou.
In this reissue of the final of the Spanish Super Cup, the azulgranas will try to avenge the defeat that deprived them of lifting the first title of the Koeman era.
The captain, Leo Messi, played the cupbearer match after serving the two penalty matches imposed by the red card he saw against Athletic in the Super Cup. Fate has wanted the Argentine footballer to return to LaLiga to seek revenge, precisely, against the same rival who was expelled.
With Messi in the eleven, it is most likely that he will be accompanied by Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann in the front. The offensive casualties of Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho They continue to condition the tactical scheme of the culé coach, Ronald Koeman, who will bet on the 4-3-3 game system, or its variant in 4-2-3-1.
In the core, the absence of Sergio Busquets due to the accumulation of five yellow cards will open the doors of ownership to Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian midfielder will be accompanied by Pedri González and a plugged-in Frenkie de Jong, wearing four goals and two assists so far in 2021.
To face Athletic, Koeman will also have to reorganize a defense conditioned by the long injury of Gerard Piqué and the presumed absence of Sergiño Dest, who missed the cupbearer's match against Rayo due to muscle discomfort in his right thigh.
His position on the right side would be occupied by Óscar Mingueza, waiting for Sergi Roberto to take more filming in his possible return to the squad after more than two months off. The defense will be completed by Jordi Alba in the left lane and Clement Lenglet and Ronald Araujo in the axis of the rear.
The new Athletic of Marcelino García Toral He arrives full of morale and on a streak of five consecutive victories in three competitions, the last four including a comeback.
The first of these comebacks was precisely against Barça in the final of the Super Cup (2-3, after the Barça team came ahead twice), a tournament that the Asturian coach took him as soon as he arrived at the historic club Basque with the milestone of achieving it by also winning in the semifinals at Real Madrid (1-2).
In the only defeat so far in the six games with Marcelino, another 2-3 in La Catedral more than scarce for a much superior Barça almost the whole game.
Athletic's splendid streak is led by its classic trident of recent seasons: Iker Muniain, Raúl García and Iñaki Williams. Among the three 9 goals and 9 assists in the six games with Marcelino.
All three are at a high level, but Muniain especially shines, probably in his best moment since his thunderous debut at 16 years old and with a "glove" on the right foot -In the words of Marcelino- with which he is sublimating the strategy.
The trident, however, is well accompanied by a team that seems to have been released in attack adding verticality and strength to the order he already had with Gaizka Garitano.
For this party they are low Mikel Balenziaga, Peru Nolaskoain and Iñigo Vicente, This after testing positive for COVID-19, there is a question of whether Íñigo Martínez will be recovered, who had to withdraw from the extension of the Super Cup final due to muscle problems that have prevented him from being available since then.
Marcelino seems to be able to count on the starting team that is giving him such good results. The one that make up Unai Simon under sticks, Ander Capa, Unai Nuñez -Iñigo's substitute-, Yeray Álvarez and Yuri Berchiche in defense; Dani García and Unai Vencedor in the double pivot; Captains Oscar de Marcos and Muniain on the midfield bands; and Raúl and Williams in attack.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza or Sergi Roberto, Araujo, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Pjanic, Pedri, De Jong; Dembélé, Messi and Griezmann.
Athletic: Athletic: Unai Simón; Capa, Nuñez, Yeray, Yuri; De Marcos, Dani García, Vencedor, Muniain; Raúl García and Williams.
Referee: Mateu Lahoz (Valencian committee)
Stadium: Camp Nou
Hour: 21.00 (20.00 GMT)
Posts: Barcelona (3rd. 37 points); Athletic (9th. 24 points).
The key: Check how physical exhaustion affects the Barcelona and Athletic players, who have been playing for several weeks with a double game between the League, the Cup and the Super Cup.
The data: De Jong comes into the game in the best shape of the season; chaining, so far in 2021, four goals and two assists between all competitions.
The phrase: "Our results lately give a lot of confidence," said Ronald Koeman on Wednesday at the press conference after the Vallecano Ray-Barcelona of the Copa del Rey.
The environment: The duel against Athletic will be a revenge for Barça and especially for Messi; the reunion against the rival that caused his expulsion adds morbidity to the return of the Argentine in LaLiga.