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Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao – Preview

Saturday 7 March 2009

Kick Off – 20:00 CET

Camp Nou, Barcelona

Barcelona head into this home fixture on a run of five games without a victory, having seen their lead at the top of La Liga cut from twelve points at the halfway stage to just four points. They face an Athletic Bilbao side who themselves have only one win in their last six outings, that win coming last Wednesday night in the Copa Del Rey semi-final against Sevilla by a 3-0 scoreline. This will be a dress rehearsal as these two sides will also meet in the final of the Copa Del Rey on May 13th and Guardiola admitted that he would hope to learn a few things about Bilbao in this fixture.

Barca’s last three league outings, in which they have only taken a single point have ironically been against teams suffering bad runs of form themselves. Betis had only won once in five games before their 2-2 home draw; Espanyol had only won once in 17 games, before their amazing victory at Camp Nou, while Atletico Madrid, also only had one win in 11 games prior to last weekend’s sensational 4-3 triumph. If this pattern continues Barca could once again find themselves in trouble as Bilbao have only one win in their last six games.

Guardiola will once again be without the injured Eric Abidal. Dani Alves and Martin Caceres are both suspended while Andreas Iniesta should return to league action after playing for 54 minutes in the midweek draw against Mallorca. Defender Alberto Botia has been drafted in to the squad and may well get the chance to make his first team debut at some point tonight.

Joseba Etxeberria, Inaki Munoz, Xabi Etxeita and Mikel Balenziaga, should all return for Bilbao after missing the Copa win over Sevilla, while Joseba del Olmo and Ander Murillo are still on the injured list.

In the game between the two at San Mames earlier in the season, Barca took the points thanks to an Eto’o goal.

FORM GUIDE

Barcelona

Mar 04 Real Mallorca 1-1 Barcelona (Copa Del Rey)

Mar 01 Atletico Madrid 4-3 Barcelona (La Liga)

Feb 24 Lyon 1-1 Barcelona (Champions League)

Feb 21 Barcelona 1-2 Espanyol (La Liga)

Feb 14 Real Betis 2-2 Barcelona (La Liga)

Athletic Bilbao

Mar 04 Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Sevilla (Copa Del Rey)

Feb 28 Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Sevilla (La Liga)

Feb 22 Getafe 1-1 Athletic Bilbao (La Liga)

Feb 15 Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Recreativo Huelva (La Liga)

Feb 08 Real Valladolid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao (La Liga)

PROBABLE STARTING XI’s

Barcelona – Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Marquez, Sylvinho, Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Messi, Eto’o, Henry

Athletic Bilbao – Iraizoz, Iraola, Etxeita, Amorebieta, Koikili, Susaeta, Orbaiz, Javi Martinez, Yeste, Etxeberria, Llorente

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