The lowdown on Athletic Club

The lowdown on Athletic Club

All the essentials on the team that FC Barcelona will be visiting this Sunday at 9pm CET

FC Barcelona will be looking to consolidate their ten-point lead in La Liga when they travel to Bilbao on Sunday at 9pm CEST. Here’s the lowdown on the team they call The Lions.

Where are they from?

The city of Bilbao is the tenth largest in Spain with a population of almost 350,000, although the ‘Greater Bilbao’ metropolitan area is home to getting on for a million people. It is the main city of the Basque Country, which has its own language and culture. Bilbao is a highly industrialised city and its most famous landmark is the Guggenheim Museum.

Club history

Due to being a port connected to Britain, Bilbao was one of the first cities in Spain to develop a football culture, and the Athletic Club was founded one year before FC Barcelona in 1898.

In the early years of the 20th century, the rivalry between Athletic and Barça was probably the most intense in the country. But as the years went by, the traditional friendship between Basques and Catalans was reflected more and more on the football field as they were united against a ‘common enemy’ in the rising Real Madrid.

Athletic remain, along with Barça and Real Madrid, one of just three clubs never to have been relegated out of the first division. And they are second in the all-time list for Spanish Cup victories (23) and fourth for La Liga titles (8), although they have not won either since their double winning campaign in 1983/84.

Arguably this is because the club continues to observe the tradition (it has never been an official policy) of only fielding players raised in the Basque football system. It is testimony to the quality of football in the region that Athletic have remained so competitive in the face of the ‘globalisation’ of football.

The Stadium

The club’s old San Mamés stadium was affectionately known as the Cathedral, but it has now been replaced by a completely new facility on the exact same site. The changes were all made without the team ever having to stop playing at their famous ground and were completed in 2013. The current capacity is 53,289.

La visita de la temporada passada del Barça a San Mamés / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB


In the last four years, Athletic have knocked Barça out of the Copa del Rey twice and also the Spanish Super Cup once. But despite those slips in knockout competitions, the Catalans have remained solid in the league, losing just one of their last 18 meetings with the Basques.

The last two games at Spotify Camp Nou have both been 4-0 wins for the blaugrana. Earlier this season, the goals were scored by Dembélé, Sergi Roberto, Lewandowski and Ferran Torres. But the last visit to Bilbao ended in a 1-1 draw.

Indeed, in all competitions, Barça have only won one of their last six games in Bilbao, a 3-2 win in 2021 in La Liga thanks to goals from Pedri and Messi (2).

Last ten meetings
23/10/22 (LIGA) Barça 4-0 Athletic
27/02/22 (LIGA) Barça 4-0 Athletic
20/01/22 (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


Form guide

Athletic have started the season in very decent form and after 14 games were in the Champions League places. But there has been a slump in form since the World Cup break, with just two wins in ten games meaning they have dropped down to ninth. In their last home fixture, they were 3-2 by Girona, and last week they could only draw 0-0 with Rayo Vallecano in a direct battle for the European places season.

There is no European football at San Mamés this season, but the Lions are still alive in their beloved Copa del Rey. However, they will need to make amends for a 1-0 defeat to Osasuna in the first leg of their semi-final.

The squad

Most capped internationals: Unai Simón (Spain, 31), Iñigo Martínez (Spain, 19), Nico Williams (Spain, 7), Iker Muniain (Spain, 2), Raúl García (Spain, 2), Iñaki Williams (Ghana, 6), Ander Herrera (Spain, 2)

Top scorers 2022/23: Ohian Sancet* (8), Gorka Guruzeta (5), Iñaki Williams (5), Nico Williams (4)
*Note that top scorer Sancet is suspended for Sunday's game after been red-carded last weekend.

The boss

Ernesto Valverde is a familiar face at Spotify Camp Nou. He played for Barça from 1988–1991 and then returned as manager from 2017–2020, guiding the club to two Liga titles and one Copa del Rey. This is his third stint as boss of Athletic, for whom he made 170 appearances in his playing days.

Valverde has also managed Espanyol, Valencia and Villarreal in Spain, and also Olympiacos, with whom he won three Greek league championships.

Ernesto Valverde


Força Barça
Força Barça

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