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Xavi, during the match against Athletic Club of Bilbao of the season 2008/09 FOTO: FCB

It’s one the classic games in Spanish football. These are two of just three teams that have played every single edition of the Spanish First Division. It’s also a clash of two very different traditions and two very different ways of understanding football. The Basques play a typically physical, British-styled kind of game, and have famously stayed faithful to the ideology of only using locally raised footballers. Barça, meanwhile, have always been famed for a focus on skill, flair and keeping the ball on the ground, while combining local talent with high profile international imports.

But there are also many factors that the clubs share in common. Both are closely associated to their respective Basque and Catalan national identities, and both have a strong focus on developing youngsters from their own academies. The upshot of it all is a history of memorable and spectacular games involving the two sides. These have tended to go Barça’s way, but Athletic Bilbao have never been an easy opponent, not even at the Camp Nou where the 83 games have ended in 57 home wins, 17 away wins and nine draws. Barça have scored 193 goals and conceded 90.

Bilbao haven’t won at the Camp Nou since 2001/02, when Ezquerro got the only of the game on November 24, a marked improvement on the Basques’ performance in the same fixture the previous season, when current FCB manager Luis Enrique contributed three of the goals in a 7-0 win. Since then Barça have won every time they have met, apart from a 2-2 draw in 2002/03 and a 1-1 draw the season after, 2003/04. Last season, the game on March 21 ended 2-1 to Barça thanks to goals from Messi and Pedro, with Aduriz getting the solitary goal for the visitors.

Basque wins

Athletic’s seventeen wins at the Camp Nou include one in October 1945 when Zarra and Urra got two goals each; one in February 1977, when Irureta got both goals in a 2-0 win; and in February 1994, when the goalscoring heroes for the visitors were Julen Guerrero, Cuco Ziganda and Valverde.

Messi records

The game in 2011/12, which Barça won 2-0, was a historic occasion for Leo Messi. That day, the Argentinian became the first player for ten years to score 56 official goals in a single season in Europe, and also the first Barça player ever to score 36 goals in the same league season.

In December 2012, Barça beat Bilbao 5-1 at the Camp Nou, and Messi’s brace put him within reach of the legendary ‘Torpedo’ Müller, whose record of 85 goals in a calendar year was one that many believed could never be beaten. Messi, of course, went on to do the apparently impossible.


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