Athletic Club kick off their La Liga season with a tough opening fixture against the reigning champions Barcelona this Friday at the San Mamés Stadium. Bilbao narrowly missed out on a Europa League Qualifying spot last season, with them ending the campaign sat in eighth place, below seventh on goal difference. Barcelona secured yet another La Liga title last season and they will be aiming to secure their fifth consecutive title this time around. The two meetings between these sides last season saw both fixtures end in draws.
Athletic Club head into their opening game of the season having won just one of their last three games alongside one defeat and one draw. The first of their three fixtures had them face Racing Club, who proved to be tough opponents and dealt them a 2-1 defeat. Bilbao then faced Italian side Roma at their home ground and after 90 minutes, the two sides could not be separated with the final score ending 2-2, despite Bilbao losing a player. Athletic Club’s latest fixture had them go up against Mirandes and the Spanish side managed to narrowly secure the win, beating their opponents 2-1.
The Catalan giants will arrive at their opening game of the season in a strong run of form, which has seen them secure four wins on the bounce. The first of their four wins came against Vissel Kobe, who put up little resistance to Barca’s attack and went onto lose 2-0. Ernesto Valverde’s men then faced Arsenal in the Joan Camper Trophy and after 90 minutes, the Spanish side secured a 2-1 victory. The Catalan side then secured their third consecutive victory against Italian giants Napoli, who they also beat 2-1, before then beating the same team 4-0 two days later.
You can expect to see Iñaki Williams starting in attack for Athletic Club here, having just signed a new long-term contract. Ibai Gomez, Inigo Cordoba, Inigo Martinez and Gorka Guruzeta are all injury doubts for the home side in this season opener.
Friday night looks set to be the first glimpse we get at Barcelona’s new front three of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Antonie Griezmann. New signing Frenkie de Jong is expected to start at the heart of midfield in his first competitive fixture as a Barcelona player. However, Neto is unavailable with a hand injury.
Athletic Club did well last season to hold Barcelona to draws in both of their meetings during the domestic season, but this time around we fancy Barcelona to take all three points. You can find the hosts priced at 5.00 to take the win, while Barca sits at 1.72. We are expecting Barca to win both halves of the game, with their firepower also aiding the argument for them to score over 2.5 goals.