Barcelona will look to extend their current winning streak to four games across all competitions when they host Athletic Club on Sunday at 8:00pm (UK time).
The Blaugrana have recovered well from their Supercopa de Espana final defeat to this weekend’s opponents, beating Cornella (2-0) and Rayo Vallecano (2-1) in the Copa del Rey, either side of a La Liga win over Elche (2-0). That said, Athletic Club are enjoying a five-game winning streak of their own and will provide a stern test for Barca.
Barcelona vs Athletic Club build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Despite their improvement in form, which has also taken in a nine-game unbeaten run in La Liga, Ronald Koeman’s men remain 10 points adrift of league leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand over the Catalan side.
Barcelona have been less than convincing in some of their recent wins, too, struggling to see off supposed lesser opposition and being pushed hard, even by lower-league teams. That said, Real Madrid’s shock defeat to Levante on Saturday should offer even more motivation here.
Still, Athletic Club have already given Koeman plenty of problems across January, first giving little ground in a 3-2 defeat to Barcelona in La Liga, before beating the Catalan giants 3-2 in the Supercopa de Espana final by the same scoreline.
Marcelino’s side have won six of their last seven games in all competitions, climbing to ninth in the table. If results go their way, they could end the week just nine points adrift of the Champions League places.
Barcelona (vs Rayo Vallecano): Neto; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet, Firpo; De Jong, Busquets*, Puig; Trincao, Messi, Griezmann.
Athletic Club (vs Alcoyano): Ezkieta; Lekue, Nunez, Alvarez, Berchiche; Berenguer, Lopez, Vesga, Morcillo; Villalibre, Sancet.
Lionel Messi will return to league action after serving his suspension, while Sergiño Dest should start after overcoming a muscle problem. However, Barca will remain without the injured trio of Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique and Philippe Coutinho, while Sergio Busquets is suspended.
Inigo Martinez and Mikel Balenziaga are fitness doubts for Marcelino, who will be without the injured Peru Nolaskoain.