Athletic Bilbao host Barcelona in La Liga’s curtain-raiser on Friday night in a hugely anticipated encounter at the San Mames. This fixture has been cagey in the last few meetings. The Blaugrana have bolstered their squad while Bilbao will be hoping to make a better start this time. Can the Basque club trouble Barca at home? Here’s the Big Game Focus. Bet on La Liga here.
Athletic Bilbao made a dreadful start to last season where they registered one win in 14 games. Bilbao, which is the only other team never to be relegated from the top flight besides Barcelona and Real Madrid, will be hoping for a much better start under Gaizka Garitano. Garitano was appointed in December last year after the sacking of Eduardo Berizzo. Garitano, who was promoted from Bilbao’s reserve team, led the team to eighth in the table from 18th place.
Barcelona head into this fixture after an eventful summer where they’ve spent around 250 million euros. They have coasted to the last two domestic titles and the addition of Antoine Greizmann makes them huge favourites for the third La Liga title in a row. The Catalans look very good on paper but can they start on the front foot against Bilbao?
Last season’s two meetings between these two ended in draws. However, Ernesto Valverde’s men are unbeaten in the last six matches against Bilbao, winning four and drawing two. For that reason, odds of 1.70 for an Away Win are attractive.
The last four matches between these two have seen two or fewer goals. Four of Bilbao’s last five La Liga games and three of Barca’s last five have seen Under 2.5 Goals. Therefore, you can back Under 2.5 Goals at odds of 2.10.
At least one of the two teams has not scored in four of the last five matches between these two rivals. You can back Both Teams to Score No at odds of 2.10.
Garitano has no major injury concerns heading into the contest, making it unlikely that there will be any major surprises when it comes to the starting eleven.
Lionel Messi is set to miss out on the season's opener after sustaining a calf strain, whilst new goalkeeper Neto is sidelined with a hand injury. Marquee summer signing Antoine Griezmann is expected to start in behind Luis Suarez. New signing Frenkie De Jong should also be involved for the champions.
Bilbao: Herrerin, De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche, San Jose, D. Garcia, Muniain, R. Garcia, Ibai, Williams
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, De Jong, Busquets, Roberto, Dembele, Suarez, Griezmann