Barcelona is going through the most difficult season in decades. They are a completely different team after Leo Messi’s departure but are still in place to make it to the UEFA Champions League next season. The game against Athletic Bilbao might prove to be decisive in that attempt.
Barcelona is currently fourth in La Liga standings with 42 points, 15 short of the leading Real Madrid. The team from Camp Nou had a terrible start of the season under coach Ronald Koeman but when Xavi took over the charge, things quickly turned around.
Barcelona finished their Champions League season in the group stage this season which is pretty shocking for them but what would be a real disaster is if they fail to finish the season among the top teams in La Liga and do not even participate in the next season’s campaign of the elite competition.
Xavi squad is 4 points behind Real Betis, a team that made a huge leap and all of a sudden is in the Champions League conversation. La Liga’s defending champion Atletico Madrid is three points behind Barcelona and the real fight for the last two places will be between these three teams since Real Madrid and Sevilla are unreachable in the top two spots.
Barcelona is undefeated in La Liga in almost three months after they lost to Real Betis at the beginning of December. They have won three of the last five games and draw in the other two. Barcelona has won 7 of 11 games at Camp Nou.
The Catalans are coming off a 4-1 road win against Valencia with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring a hat-trick. This is a huge confidence boost for Barcelona and they are going in as favorites in the match against Athletic Bilbao.
Athletic Bilbao is currently 8th in La Liga standings with 37 points only five short of Barcelona. That is the range where Athletic Bilbao usually finished the season but this team seems ready to go one step higher and get to a place that will at least lead them to a Europa League appearance next season.
The Lions have won 9 of 25 games this season in La Liga with 10 draws and 6 losses. They have won three of the last five games in the top Spanish competition with one loss and one draw.
Athletic is coming off a 4-0 win over Real Sociedad which is their largest win in 2022. It seemed like that would be another disappoining game for Athletic after they missed a penalty and entered the last quarter of the match tied at zero. But then, Dani Vivian scored in the 68th minute and Athletic went on to score three more goals until the end of the match.
Athletic has lost only twice in 13 road games this season with 3 wins and 8 draws.
OUT TIP OF THE MATCH BETWEEN BARCELONA AND ATHLETIC BILBAO
Barcelona has won three of the last five games against Athletic Bilbao in la Liga with the Lions winning one and one draw. Their last game in La Liga took place last August in Bilbao and finished 1-1. In January last year, Barcelona win 2-1 in the last La Liga game between these two at Camp Nou. The last game between Barcelona and Athletic was this January in the Copa del Ray with Bilbao winning 3-2.
Athletic has legit chances when they visit Barcelona on Sunday as their defense seems confident. They have scored in three of their last four visits at Camp Nou.
Still, Barcelona is the better team and the Sunday’s game is a must-win for them if they want to keep pace with their competition for the last spot that leads to the Champions League.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has adapted well with Barcelona after coming in from Arsenal and will be a huge threat for Athletic’s goal. The Gabonese striker scored three goals in his last game and will most likely score against Bilbao as well.
Barcelona will manage to win this one but it will not be easy at all. Athletic will not allow the hosts to control the midfield and will play offensively aiming to score. Barcelona will have to score at least twice which they will eventually do and win.
PREDICTION: Barcelona to win and over 2.5 goals