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FC Barcelona went flying to the top of the Liga table with a 6-2 win on day one of the competition, and will now defend that lead in their first away trip of the campaign. The venue is the New San Mamés in Bilbao, a stadium Barcelona have already visited five times since it was inaugurated in 2013.
Marc-André ter Stegen and JavierMascherano have both recovered in time for inclusion in the 18-man Barça squad announced on Saturday, but AndrésIniesta and JérémyMathieu are both still out through injury.
Rafinha is back after winning gold at the Rio Olympics, and AndréGomes is set to make his Liga debut for Barça after sitting out last week's victory with a suspension.
NeymarJr has been given special permission not to report back to work until after the international break, while new signing JasperCillessen will not be selectable until Monday for legal reasons.
Here's the full list for Sunday's game: Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Arda, Suárez, Messi, Rafinha, Mascherano, Munir, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Aleix Vidal and Umtiti.
For Athletic, Mikel San José misses the match with back trouble, but despite taking a nasty knock in the face last weekend, Mikel Balenziaga will be able to play, albeit wearing nasal protection.
"Playing at San Mamés is one of the most difficult games we have on the road" said Barça manager Luis Enrique on Saturday.
"They will make it tough for us to get the ball back when we lose it. They will create pressure up the field, and have dangerous players like Raúl García and [Aritz] Aduriz who are strong on the ball and in the air, not to mention Iñaki Williams when he's out on the wing and has the ball in deep."
"Barcelona find it hard to beat us” boasted his Athletic counterpart ErnestoValverde. “They know we won’t give up any balls and we’ll work to be in contention until the end. Playing them is a headache but I like it because you learn things for other occasions and challenges.”
On the 4-0 win in the Spanish Super Cup last year, he adds that “it goes to show that you can hurt Barcelona too. Celta last season and Liverpool in the preseason are other examples. You sometimes think they’re unbeatable but those examples show that it can be done.”
After cruising to the Spanish Super Cup title against Sevilla and then putting six past Betis in their first Liga fixture, things at Barça are looking just as good as ever.
Athletic’s eight-match preseason featured just one win, 1-0 against Borussia Dortmund. On the positive side, the Basques only suffered two defeats, to Southampton and Schalke 04. Their only official fixture to date has been a 2-1 reverse at Sporting Gijón in La Liga last week.
Since Barça lost 1-0 on their first visit to Athletic’s new stadium for a league game in December 2013, the two sides have met ten times in three different competitions. Athletic’s stunning 4-0 win in the first leg of the 2015 Spanish Super Cup sent shockwaves throughout the football world, but that’s the only one of the ten meetings that the Basques have won.
The other results include a 5-2 win for FCB at San Mamés in February 2015, a 6-0 win at the Camp Nou in January 2016 and, of course, Barça’s 3-1 victory over ‘the Lions’ in the 2015 Copa del Rey Final.
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