Betting preview: Athletic Bilbao – FC Barcelona
Competition: Copa del Rey
Date and time: 5th of January, 21:15
Place: San Mamés, Bilbao
It is time for Spanish football to return to action. And they are starting with the Copa del Rey (King´s cup). Both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid won their first leg with 3-0 and 2-0. Atletico lining up with a strong team meanwhile Zidane decided to play without neither of the front trio BBC, without Ramos and Pepe yet they managed to take on Sevilla at Bernabue in a great game.
Now it is time for what is called a classic game. Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona have always been playing in the first division and therefore also know each other very well. Last time the sides played in the Copa del Rey was in the final 2015. A game more remembered for Lionel Messi’s solo goal on the right flank. Now it the last 16th round with two games one today and the return is next week.
Coach Luis Enrique has decided to pick a strong squad with him to the game leaving only Aleix Vidal and Denis Suarez outside the 18-man squad. Barcelona will be missing their second goalkeeper Cillessen and center back Mathieu. That means that it is most likely for the 3rd goalkeeper Masip to start the game. Barcelona have a tough game on Sunday against Villareal to think about. And that is why I think that Luis Enrique, even though there has been a two-week long break, will start a somewhat weaker team. In the absence of Vidal there is only one more right-back whom is Roberto. With Digne on the left and the center-backs would probably be Pique and one of Umtiti or Mascherano. The midfield have Busquets like always present and probably Rafinha and Rakitic since both have had very little in the last games of the team. In front it will be interesting if Luis Enrique will trust Paco Alcacer who scored his first two goals against Hercules in the last round or if he goes all-in with the fearless MSN.
The second-best cup champion will be hoping that the break disturbed Barcelona’s great form from before. Athletic have had a good season so far, advancing from the group-stage in the Europa League and two point behind 6th placed Atletico Madrid shows that Bilbao are still in the top competing for Europa League spots. Since this is a competition Athletic know they really have a chance to win they will probably play with the best team available. Players that could really damage Barcelona´s back four is the old but still good Aduriz together with Inaki Williams and Muniain. This front three have shown a lot of talent during the season. Aduriz who will be celebrating his 36th birthday next month is still the front man and are still a great threat in the air as always.
Since this is the first-leg and it is played at San Mamés, Athletic will try to grab a win they can defend at the Camp Nou. Meanwhile Barcelona will be looking for the away goal that could tilt the tie to their favor even if they lose the game. The league game ended 0-1 at San Mames after an early header by Rakitic. Otherwise the games have almost always been very entertaining with many goals. With both teams knowing each other very well I doubt they will be careful. Barcelona will oversee possession as always and my bet is many goals. Over 3.5 goals have the odds of 2.50 at Bet365, a good bet with good odds.
While waiting for the game let me take you back to 2015 and see some of Messi´s magic.