Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona: preview and possible line-ups
Thirteen wins, 14 draws and 11 defeats - that is how Bilbao performed in La Liga last season; a total of 53 points left them in eighth position, which means that they have missed out on European football for this campaign. It will be just the second time since the 2013-14 season that Bilbao have not been present in either the Champions League or the Europa League. There is no getting away from the fact that it has been a disappointing couple of years for the Basque club, considering that they finished fourth, seventh, fifth and seventh between 2013 and 2017. It has been a relatively quiet summer for the Basque outfit, who have managed to tie key player Inaki Williams to a long term contract amid reported interest from Manchester United. Tomorrow's game will no doubt prove a hard one for Bilbao, as they have not beaten Barcelona since 2013, but Leo Messi's injury could still bring them some luck on the home turf.
A record of 26 wins, nine draws and just three defeats saw Barca collect 87 points last season, which ultimately saw them finish 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid. The season did, however, end on a sour note, with a harsh elimination in the Champions League semi-finals to the eventual champions Liverpool, and a painful loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final. A disappointing season for the Catalans, given the club's high standards. To cure the post-season blues, Barça's board got to work by bringing in Antoine Griezmann and Junior Firpo - in addition to Frenkie de Jong, a winter signing - for Valverde to strengthen his squad in his most vulnerable areas. The possible addition of Neymar could still eventually happen, although the complications for that negotiation to materialise make it seem somewhat unlikely. Barca have only actually played five times over the summer, with Chelsea beating them in their pre-season opener on July 23. The likes of Atletico and Real Madrid will be looking to see where Barca could potentially drop points in the early weeks of the campaign - it seems unlikely against Bilbao. ç
Herrerin; De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche; San Jose, D. Garcia; Muniain, R. Garcia, Ibai; Williams
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Roberto; Dembele, L Suarez, Griezmann