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And as fate should have it, that’s the very side they are meeting in Sunday’s league match at the Camp Nou (8.30pm CET).
Barça are currently second in the Liga table, two points behind Atlético and two ahead of Real Madrid, but have a game in hand on both those sides, who are both playing earlier on Sunday.
It has been confirmed that Jérémy Mathieu will sit this game out after picking up a calf strain against Espanyol midweek. Adriano took a knock in the same game and will miss out, but other than that Barça have a full squad, apart from long-term absentee Rafinha.
Athletic have three serious issues to worry about. Leading goalscorer Aritz Aduriz is unavailable through suspension, key midfielder Raúl García injured his left knee in the 2-0 loss to Sevilla last weekend and to make matters even worse, central defender Aymeric Laporte is having trouble with his back.
Speaking to the press on Saturday, Luis Enrique said that “the two teams know each other well and there won’t be an easy ball in the game … They are a club that I have admired for years. We have a motivation as they stopped us winning the sixth trophy of the year.”
Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde has commented that “being drawn with Barcelona in the cup doesn’t change anything. There are three league points to play for on Sunday and we’re not going to turn them down. There is no need to hide anything for Wednesday.”
Barça have not lost any of their last 21 games in all competitions, but have drawn three of their last five Liga matches. Athletic are currently eighth in the table following a mixed bag of results, but recent wins at Celta in the league and Villarreal in the cup show that it’s not just at San Mamés that they are a danger.
Barça beat Athletic 3-1 in the Copa del Rey Final last May, and the two sides have already met three times since. It was Athletic that stood in the way of Barça winning all six major trophies in 2015 when they all but secured the Spanish Super Cup title with a 4-0 win in the first leg at San Mamés. The return game at the Camp Nou ended 1-1.
Immediately after that, the two teams met again in the opening game of the Liga season, Barça taking the three points thanks to a second half goal from Luis Suárez.
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