TalkBarca welcomes everyone to the very first La Liga game of the season. When I say that it’s the first game of the Spanish First Division League, I literally mean it. It’s not just Barca’s first game, it’s also the league’s opening. We are going to witness Athletic Club vs FC Barcelona, live from San Mamés, the home of Athletic Club. So, let’s start with the first match preview of the season.
The kick-off will be coming to us at 09:00 PM as per local time and it promises to be a very tricky start. With protecting our crown, we want the League Title this season as well. You can find the match timings for your country in the following image:
Image Credit: FC Barcelona vs Athletic Club Kick-Off Time
Of course, we have to focus on our own game. However, we also have to focus on our opponents Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao finished at a pretty respectable 8th place last season in La Liga. They were very close to finish in the European Competition place but lost to Espanyol in Europa League on the head to head rule.
It was quite an average season for Athletic Club. They had some highs, some lows and they were fairly inconsistent throughout the season. They got a boost this season by keeping a hold of their talisman, Iñaki Williams, who signed a new contract until 2028. He signed a 9-year deal with a release clause of 135 Million Euros. Yes, you read that right. That right there is an incredibly long contract.
Another player to keep tabs on is Raúl García whom we know from his Atlético Madrid Days. He is certainly a dangerous player when it comes to heading the ball from corners and set pieces. We will have to keep an eye on his ability and the sheer pace of Iñaki Williams because these 2 players can really cause some problems.
This is going to be a tough game. San Mamés is a tough place to go. It’s a difficult atmosphere there and it becomes hostile sometimes. Most importantly, the Athletic Club always put a very good fight. In our last 2 league meetings with Athletic Bilbao in the previous season, we failed to register 3 points. We drew 1-1 back in September at the Camp Nou with Munir El Haddadi scoring in the 84th minute. Furthermore, it was a goalless draw at San Mamés in February.
Concluding from our previous 2 meetings, we would have to play better. The team and the players can’t expect 3 points without raising their level of football. We want to start the season in a firing manner and we cannot lose some points this early in the season. We may be without our star man, Messi, but we will have to step up just like we did against Napoli in the pre-season.
Lionel Messi May Miss The Match Given his Previous Injury:
It’s obvious that we want to see Lionel Messi back in Barca Shirt as soon as possible. But right now, he is simply not going to be fit enough. He has hardly trained with the team and he still recovering from his injury.
We don’t want to risk him this early in the season. We don’t want to end up aggravating the injury by pushing him to make an early comeback. Let him have his time, we will be seeing him in plenty of the next games. Taking a risk to play him is not worth it. He is far too important for our success in the long season.
FCB Squad For Athletic Club
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen, Iñaki Peña.
Defenders: N. Semedo, Piqué, Lenglet, Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Junior.
Midfielders: I. Rakitic, Sergio, Rafinha, Aleñá, S. Roberto, F. De Jong.
Forwards: Suárez, O. Dembélé, Coutinho, Griezmann, C. Pérez.
Unavailable Players: Messi and Neto (Both are injured)
Players Not Selected: Wague, Todibo, Vidal, and Arthur
Ernesto Valverde told in a press conference that we would see a lineup quite similar to what we saw in our previous meeting with Napoli which is as following:
I must say that it was a phenomenal display from this lineup. It would be really difficult to drop many names from this lineup because all of them performed really well. I am certain that Ter Stegen will start the game. I think Valverde will stick with the same back-4 and the front-3. However, I expect some changes in the Midfield.
Ter Stegan is undoubtedly going to start the game considering he is the only first-team Goalkeeper in the squad. I believe, he would have started the game even if Neto was fit.
I think Valverde will go with the same back-4 as we saw in our previous friendly match against Napoli. N. Semedo (LB), Piqué (RCB), Lenglet (LCB), Jordi Alba (LB)
For me, F. De Jong is absolutely going to start the game simply because of his previous performances. He bossed the midfield against Napoli and clearly showed how easily he can fit in the team.
I would love to see Alena in the starting XI because of his style of play. I love how he is always motivated to take the ball forward and how calm he is under pressure. However, considering our Manager, Valverde, I think, Rakitic and Sergio Busquets will start alongside F. De Jong.
I think Valverde will stick with the same front-3 as we saw against Napoli. O. Dembélé, Suárez, and Griezmann are all good forwards and capable of shaking the mightiest defense. Obviously, we would miss Messi’s masterclass but I hope Dembélé will give us many Goosebumps throughout the game.
As per my analysis, Valverde will introduce Coutinho, Aleñá, and S. Roberto in the second half in place of Griezmann, Dembele, and Rakitic.
So, that was all for the lineups. Now, let’s talk about the score prediction. I am going quite enthusiastic here, my prediction is that Barcelona will win by 2 goals to Nil. Yes, I think, we will keep the clean sheet.
That was all for today’s match preview of Athletic Club vs FC Barcelona. It’s the start of the season and I hope we will win this one to be at top of the table where we deserved to be. What do you think of this match preview? I would like to get your feedback on this article and would love to hear your opinion. Who do you think will start the game? Let me know in the comments section below. Visca El Barca!