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FC Barcelona return to the empty Camp Nou on Tuesday at 10.00pm CEST to face Athletic Club in a crucial Liga fixture. After the 0-0 draw in Seville, coupled with Real Madrid’s victory at Real Sociedad, Barça have lost their place at the top of the table and it’s time start fighting to win it back.
The two frontrunners in the chase for the title are now locked on 65 points each, but in the case of a tie on points, Madrid will always come out better due to their better head-to-head record.
As against Leganés, there will be no supporters in the stadium, and the absence of the ‘twelfth man’ is sure to make the challenge even harder.
A soleus injury means Frenkie de Jong how joins Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto in the treatment room. Although there is plenty of cover for the Dutchman in midfield, his absence will still be felt in midfield, with the game coming so thick and fast that every player is needed. The better news is that Samuel Umtiti is back from suspension.
Morer and Cuenca of Barça B were included in the 23-man squad announced on Monday.
Now in their second season under Gaizka Garitano, this is the team that knocked Barça out of the Copa del Rey in February, a Sergio Busquets own goal deciding the one-legged quarter final in the final seconds of injury time. Athletic have gone on to reach the final, which for the first time is a Basque derby against Real Sociedad, although because of Covid-19 it is not known how and when that game is going to be played.
In contrast, Athletic lost all four of their league games in February, but are unbeaten in the five games played since then. That leaves them ninth in the table and still in contention for a Europa League berth next season.
Last five league results
Athletic 1-0 Villarreal
Valladolid 1-4 Athletic
Athletic 1-1 Atlético Madrid
Eibar 2-2 Athletic
Athletic 1-0 Real Betis
Their top goalscorers (league and cup) this season are: Raúl García (10); Iñaki Williams (9); Iker Muniain (6); Yuri Berchiche (6)
Head to head
Barça also lost 1-0 at San Mamés in the league earlier this season, and the Basques have now gone for three games without conceding a goal to the Catalans. None of those games were played at Camp Nou, where the sides drew 1-1 the last time they played there, a result that ended a run of 14 consecutive home victories for Barça in the league.
But despite their good recent form against the blaugrana, Athletic have not won a game at Camp Nou since 2001.
Last five meetings
06/02/20 (CUP) Athletic 1-0 FC Barcelona
16/08/19 (LIGA) Athletic 1-0 FC Barcelona
10/02/19 (LIGA) Athletic 0-0 FC Barcelona
29/09/18 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 1-1 Athletic
18/03/18 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 2-0 Athletic
Did you know?
Quique Setién has only won one of his eight clashes with Athletic as a manager, in 2016 when he was in charge of Las Palmas.
Leo Messi has either scored or given an assist in his last eleven games against Athletic at Camp Nou.
Barça have kept four clean sheets in a row, having scored six and conceded none since the league resumed.
We have to go all the way back to a 0-0 draw in 1985 to find the last time Barça failed to score at home to Bilbao in the league – long before a lot of readers were even born!
Real Madrid’s next game is on Wednesday against Mallorca, and on Sunday they face another team currently in the relegation zone, Espanyol.
Next up for Barça, meanwhile, is Saturday’s trip to Celta (who beat Alavés 6-0 on Sunday) and after that Atlético Madrid are coming to Camp Nou.
Quique Setién's views
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