Ernesto Valverde will return to his former stomping ground for the first time when Athletic Club travel to Spotify Camp Nou to take on Barcelona on Sunday night, live on ITV4 at 8:00pm BST.
Barcelona will be looking for a second consecutive win having seen off Villarreal on Thursday night, but this top-six clash will see Athletic Club look to taste victory for the first time in three games after their strong start to the season began to fade.
Barcelona v Athletic Club Bet Builder Tips
Barcelona to Win
After a tough spell, Barcelona looked back to their dominant best against Villarreal, a side who are certainly no pushovers, in the midweek round of LaLiga action. “I think we played a great game, and it was about time,” was how Xavi described that performance. Athletic Club will pose a similar test but Barça’s confidence and cutting edge on Thursday makes them favourites with good reason.
Xavi is already turning Camp Nou into a fortress with five wins and two draws from seven home games in all competitions, and they have not tasted defeat in Barcelona yet this season. Athletic Club, on the other hand, have dropped points in their last two away games and have not won on the road since beating Elche 4-1 on 11th September.
“We want to take the game to them, not sit back,” defender Yeray said ahead of the game this week, which would reflect the same approach as was taken against Atlético at San Mamés when the away team hit Athletic on the counter to win. A similar approach will give chances to Barcelona, which is good news for the Catalan side as they’ve struggled against teams who sit in a true low block this season.
Robert Lewandowski First Goalscorer
The Polish striker returned to form with a bang on Thursday as he scored a brace for Barcelona against Villarreal, and he’ll be hoping to continue that against Athletic. It was remarkably the fifth time in his nine LaLiga games that Lewandowski was the first goalscorer, and he is now running at a rate of a goal per game.
Lewandowski has only failed to score in three of his nine appearances in LaLiga to date, and will likely prove difficult to handle for Athletic Club. The Basque side actually have the second lowest success rate in the division in terms of success in defensive duels at 55.4%, with only Getafe recording lower.
That will have this poacher licking his lips at the opportunity to cause problems for a back line which is expected to change with Yeray Álvarez replacing Dani Vivian as Valverde shakes up his team.
Over 8.5 Corners
In Barcelona and Athletic Club, two of LaLiga’s leading teams in terms of corners will come head to head. Barcelona lead the competition with 6.09 corners per 90, while Athletic Club are not far behind at 5.19 corners per 90, ranking third in the competition. That combination means that over 8.5 corners is good value at 1.6.
Athletic actually use crosses more than any other side in the Spanish league with 20.04 per 90 minutes, while Barcelona rank fifth with 15.22. Having so much of the game up in the air and with aerial balls into the final third means that corners are always likely to come.
In particular, the right flank of Athletic brings crosses galore with Óscar de Marcos and Nico Williams, with the younger Williams brother now a regular in the line-up, as they are two of LaLiga’s six most prolific crossers.
Under 3.5 Goals
Even if Barcelona are the favourites and expected to have enough chances to win, this is unlikely to be a complete goal fest. With Marc-André ter Stegen and Unai Simón, this game features two of the best and most in-form goalkeepers in the league. Ter Stegen is having a particularly good season, boasting LaLiga’s best goals against record with just four conceded and the best save percentage of the division, at 87.5 percent.
Barcelona may also take their foot off the gas if they find themselves with a multiple-goal lead, which is exactly what happened in their midweek 3-0 win over Villarreal. After scoring three first-half goals, the Blaugrana and their opponents seemed to come to a truce in the second period, dishing out rest and nursing that lead to the finish line. With Barça’s last roll of the dice in the Champions League coming up on Wednesday, this could make for a tame second half.
Battles between these two teams don’t usually produce many goals, anyway, often becoming physical affairs with many fouls. Their last meeting was a 4-0 win for Barça at the Camp Nou in February, but it really must be kept in mind that Athletic made many rotations for that one ahead of their Copa del Rey semi-final, essentially fielding a reserve team. Their previous visits to the Camp Nou had finished 2-1, 1-0, 1-1 and 2-0 and that’s more like the scorelines we should expect to see on Sunday night.
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How to watch Barcelona v Athletic Club in the Primeira Liga?
📅 When is Barcelona v Athletic Club? / Sunday, 23 October 2022, 20:00
🏟 Where is Barcelona v Athletic Club? / Camp Nou (Barcelona)
📺 What TV channel is Barcelona v Athletic Club on? / ITV4 🟨 …And who is the referee for Barcelona v Athletic Club? / J. Martinez 🇪🇸