By 90Min
October 27, 2017

Athletic Bilbao host Barcelona at the San Mames Stadium on Saturday, with the home side looking to improve on their slow start to the season, while Ernesto Valverde will be wanting to extend his side's already comprehensive lead at the top of the table by coming away with a victory over his old team.

Barcelona have conceded just three goals all season in the league, so it certainly won't be an easy task for Bilbao who are yet to really make a mark on La Liga this year.


Recent History

In this tie back at the beginning of last season, Barcelona ran out eventual 1-0 winners courtesy of a goal from Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

Alex Caparros/GettyImages

In the reverse fixture at the Nou Camp, Barcelona won comfortably after goals from Paco Alcacer, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal on a night where the Blaugrana were fielding an under-strength starting eleven.


Key Battle - Lionel Messi vs Aymeric Laporte


If Athletic Bilbao are to walk away with anything from Saturday's game, defending will need to be their priority. With 11 goals in nine league games so far this season, Lionel Messi is most certainly returning to the dizzying heights of his goalscoring splendour that we've seen over the past five years.

Much has been made of Bilbao's 23 year-old centre back Aymeric Laporte, who has been on the radar of Europe's top clubs for some time. However, his loyalty to the Basque club is certainly something to behold, but his talents will be tested to the max when he faces off against Lionel Messi and co on Saturday evening.


Team News

Saturday's game will most likely see the return of Jordi Alba, who has missed Barcelona's last three games due to a thigh injury. While young french left back Lucas Digne has performed exceptionally in his absence, the league leaders will be eager to have the reliable Spaniard back on the left side of defence. Long term absentees Ousmane Demele and Rafinha are still ruled out with injuries, while Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal will also miss the game.

Bilbao winger Iker Muniain is still ruled out until March with a ruptured cruciate ligament, while right back Oscar De Marcos will miss Saturday's game with a sprained ankle.

Prediction

While a trip to San Mames is never easy, Barcelona are likely to be too strong for a Bilbao side who have struggled defensively this season. The momentum that the Blaugrana have coming into this game should see them through to victory to maintain their impeccable record this season.

Prediction: Athletic Bilbao 1 - 3 Barcelona 

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