Barcelona will play Athletic Bilbao in Matchday 31 of La Liga at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Second-placed Barca must take the three points as any further slip-ups would give leaders Real Madrid the opportunity to further their lead atop of the domestic league table.
Athletic Bilbao currently sit 9th in La Liga with 42 points, having only scored 33 goals in their 30 matches so far. Los Leones beat Real Betis (1-0) on Saturday, so their morale will be boosted as a result.
Following their 0-0 draw in Sevilla, and as explained in much more detail in our latest The Barcelona Podcast, manager Quique Setien has come under severe criticism due to his poor team selection and inability use fresh substitutions to impact the game.
Quique Setien will be missing regular starters Frenkie De Jong and Sergi Roberto due to injury, which is definitely an inconvenience given their influence on the pitch – particularly in the case of our Dutch international.
Here is my suggested XI for Barcelona’s home match against Athletic Bilbao:
As I explained in our latest The Barcelona Podcast, I believe that Setien’s main issue has been his inability to impose his authority on Barca’s dressing room – an issue with resulted in the sacking of former manager Ernesto Valverde.
Unfortunately, the passing of time means that former greats such as Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets or Luis Suarez are not as effective as they once were, which is natural. However, the obvious decline of these key players should never be a excuse for current poor performances.
To counter this, Setien should be trusting young players such as Ansu Fati or Riqui Puig much more often than he has done so far – either as starters (as I suggest against Athletic) or coming on as impactful substitutes around the 60th minute mark.
Listen to The Barcelona Podcast for more specific discussion, right here:
Given the fact that Barcelona no longer depend on themselves to win La Liga, I would normally expect the hosts to come out and comfortably beat Athletic at the Camp Nou. Having said that, part of me feels there is a risk of reality getting the better of our team once again if Setien shies away from making the much-needed changes suggested above.
Let’s be optimistic, however: I predict that Barca will beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at the Camp Nou.