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Athletic Club vs Barcelona Preview

April 26, 2013 By Mike Goncalves
After getting completely outplayed at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, Barcelona returns to the domestic league with the possibility of claiming the La Liga title against Athletic Bilbao.

If someone had told you that Bayern Munich was going to not only out perform Barcelona, but that they were also going to win 4-0, your initial reaction would have been of disbelief. Unfortunately for Barcelona, just four days later, the hangover of that heavy 4-0 defeat still hangs over their heads.

Not only was it a convincing victory for Bayern, but it may have shifted some prestige from the Spanish La Liga to the German Bundesliga. Could the Germans be on the verge of becoming a more powerful and entertaining league?

Regardless of anyone's opinion, Barcelona's Andres Iniesta believes that his side still deserves respect given what they have been able to achieve in recent years.


"People are being unfair to the team," the Spanish midfielder said after the defeat in Germany. "In the last five seasons we have won three Champions Leagues, reached three more semi-finals, we are on the point of taking our fourth league title, Supercups... what a record!"

"We have spent many years fighting for everything. For me, you can talk about the end of an era when we have gone a while without winning anything. I think this team has done enough to deserve respect."

Their next opponent will certainly respect them knowing how their first meeting played out earlier in the campaign, but with the Blaugrana likely fielding a rotated squad, the hosts will know that they can pull off an upset.

A victory for Barcelona along with a defeat for Real Madrid at the Vicente Calderon would confirm the La Liga title for the Catalans. 

With six matches remaining including this one, Barcelona would need a complete disaster to let this title slip away. If they do not claim the silverware this weekend, they will need to wait one more week, but a victory is crucial if they want to lift their spirits ahead of a very important match against Bayern Munich mid-week.

Marcelo Bielsa's side are currently 14th and on the verge of slipping into the relegation zone. Just seven points separate them from Mallorca who is 18th, but if they continue their recent form for the remainder of the season, things could get very tense down the final stretch. 

Two wins in their last 11 matches is not something to brag about, but if Los Leones can manage to defeat Barcelona at home for the first time since 2006, their recent form will quickly be forgotten.

If they are going to turn a disappointing week into something even worst for Barcelona, they will have to do it without 18-year-old defender Aymeric Laporte who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

With that being Bielsa's only real concern when it comes to the injury list, Tito Vilanova knows all about injured defenders. 

Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano continue out of the squad which has really made things difficult for Barcelona. Although Marc Bartra is a central defender, the Sant Jaume native is only 22-years-old. While his lack of experience may not be all that noticeable, one thing that is very clear is the fact that without Carles Puyol, the Barca back line looks very suspect more often than not.

Things could get even more nervy for Tito Vilanova's back four on Saturday when he will likely field some of his least utilized players, giving his starters a rest.

Eric Abidal will be in contention for a starting role, while Montoya could get the start over Dani Alves who could use a rest. Missing out of the second leg match with Bayern Munich due to suspension, Jordi Alba should get the start as well. 

Another missing piece to the puzzle for Barcelona will be Messi who has not been very impressive since picking up his recent injury. He looked very lethargic when he came on against AC Milan and his performance against Bayern on Tuesday was not even a shadow of what he is capable of.

Their defeat mid-week should give them more motivation to come out and silence their critics against Athletic Bilbao. Fielding a second choice squad could limit them, but regardless of who takes part in this match, they should know what is at stake. 

Not only are they playing to claim a La Liga title, but they also could use a convincing victory to lift their confidence heading into a very important match on Wednesday.


Previous Meetings

12-01-12 Barcelona 5-1 Athletic Bilbao

05-25-12 Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Barcelona (Copa del Rey)

03-31-12 Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

11-06-11 Athletic Bilbao 2-2 Barcelona

02-20-11 Barcelona 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

01-05-11 Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Barcelona (Copa del Rey)



Athletic Bilbao 2-3 Barcelona

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