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There’s a very positive vibe at FC Barcelona right now. A fabulous display to beat Valencia 4-1 in La Liga was followed by perhaps the best performance of 2021/22, a 4-2 win in Napoli that ensures a Europa League last sixteen tie with Galatasaray.
Everything seems to be gelling into place and Sunday brings an excellent chance to see how much progress the team has made as they take on the last team they lost to. Athletic Club eliminated Barça from the Copa del Rey in January, but it’s a very different looking blaugrana side that the Basques will be facing in the 9.00pm CET kick-off at Camp Nou.
The reverse fixture at San Mamés earlier this season ended in a 1-1 draw, with Memphis Depay cancelling Iñigo Martínez's opener.
How it stands
After Atlético Madrid beat Celta 2-0 on Saturday night, Barça have hopefully only temporarily dropped to fifth place in the table. A win would put the blaugrana back in fourth with a game in hand on the defending champions.
At least this weekend, Barça won’t be able to catch second and third placed Sevilla and Betis, but something has to give between those two as they meet in the city derby at 4.15pm CET Sunday. Leaders Real Madrid left it late but managed to come awau from their own derby at Rayo Vallecano with a 1-0 win.
Athletic began the season in erratic fashion, winning just four of their first seventeen games, but things have taken a turn for the better in the last two months. They’ve won five of their last eight games, including a very happy result last weekend when they hammered local rivals Real Sociedad 4-0.
After reaching the last two Copa del Rey finals and losing them both, they are on course do appear in the showpiece event yet again this season. They beat both Barça and Real Madrid en route to a semi-final with Valencia. After drawing the first leg 1-1 at San Mamés they go to Mestalla for the return on Wednesday, which might condition their approach to Sunday’s game?
Last ten meetings
23/01/22 (COPA DEL REY): Athletic 3-2 Barça
21/08/21 (LIGA): Athletic 1-1 Barça
17/04/21 (COPA DEL REY): Athletic 0-4 Barça
31/01/21 (LIGA): Barça 2-1 Athletic
17/01/21 (SPANISH SUPER CUP): Barça 2-3 Athletic
06/01/21 (LIGA): Athletic 2-3 Barça
23/06/20 (LIGA): Barça 1-0 Athletic
06/02/20 (COPA DEL REY): Athletic 1-0 Barça
16/08/19 (LIGA): Athletic 1-0 Barça
10/02/19 (LIGA): Athletic 0-0 Barça
The big news is that both Memphis Depay and Clement Lenglet have been declared fully fit and are back in the side.
Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti are now the only injury concerns, while Jordi Alba misses this one through suspension.
Last five games
Feb 24 (E LEAGUE) Napoli 2-4 Barça
Feb 20 (LIGA) Valencia 1-4 Barça
Feb 17 (E LEAGUE) Barça 1-1 Napoli
Feb 13 (LIGA) Espanyol 2-2 Barça
Feb 6 (LIGA) Barça 4-2 Atlético
Feb 20 (LIGA) Athletic 4-0 Real Sociedad
Feb 14 (LIGA) Mallorca 3-2 Athletic
Feb 10 (COPA DEL REY) Athletic 1-1 Valencia
Feb 7 (LIGA) Athletic 2-1 Espanyol
Feb 3 (COPA DEL REY) Athletic 1-0 Real Madrid)
"Athletic will be a very difficult game. They were the last team to beat us.”
"People are excited about the team and we need to keep them excited. The good thing is that even when we don’t win the fans are proud because we know we gave everything that we’ve got. But we shouldn’t get carried away. We’re not saying we can’t win the league, but it’s very, very difficult given the situation.”
"I’m sure it would have been more difficult without the winter singings. Aubameyang doesn’t surprise me; he’s always been a goalscorer … Adama has surprised me with his decision-making and the way he’s matured … Ferran is the world class player I wanted and is perhaps the one that has surprised me the most.”
“We are still letting in too many goals. We shouldn’t be giving away chances or losing our concentration at certain moments.”
"Madrid got us on the counter and we got Napoli. It’s nothing new at Barça. I remember Stoichkov, Villa and Henry scoring goals like that too.”
“Depay and Lenglet are both training normally and if all goes to plan will be in the team.”
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