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The best football is back

After the dramatic 5-4 defeat of Sevilla in Tbilisi to win the European Super Cup, Barça can now make it five titles out of a possible six in 2015 as they face Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup. The first leg is at the new San Mamés on Friday 14 August (10.00pm CET) and the return is at the Camp Nou at the same time on Monday 17.

Team news

Neymar is still sick with the mumps, Alba and Douglas have hamstring injuries and Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are both ineligible, but Luis Enrique insists that there are no new concerns and that the knocks taken by Pedro and Iniesta against Sevilla were minor affairs that won’t affect their availability on Friday night.

Luis Enrique also announced on Friday morning that he would be leaving Mathieu and Masip behind, meaning that the definitive squad of eighteen is as follows: Ter Stegen, Claudio Bravo, Piqué, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio, Dani Alves, Pedro, Andrés Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Messi, Rafinha, Mascherano, Bartra, Sandro, Munir, Sergi Roberto, Adriano and Vermaelen.

The FC Barcelona players will be wearing black armbands in memory of Juan José Enríquez Gómez, who died this week at the age of 64. ‘Juanjo’, as he was known to the fans, played 30 games for the first team between 1977 and 1979

Athletic are missing the injured Mikel Rico, Ander Iturraspe and Iñaki Williams, while both Íñigo Ruiz de Galarreta and Guillermo Fernández left the club this week on loan spells at Leganés.

Coaches' viewpoint

In his pre-match press conference, Barça manager Luis Enrique said “we are in so many competitions that we are obliged to be at our best from the beginning. Barça are motivated to beat anybody and Athletic always ask a lot of us … They are a team who use the support of their fans to cause problems for their opponents ... Over two legs I think we have the edge but Athletic are always able to trouble us.”

Athletic boss Ernesto Valverde doesn’t deny that his main priority right now is next week’s Europa League qualifier against MŠK Žilina of Slovakia. “But we aren’t going to play thinking about what’s coming after” he insisted on Thursday evening. “We are playing for a title and after playing them so many times perhaps it’s our turn to win. Sevilla showed that it’s possible to hurt them and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Form guide

Barça had a mixed bag of results in the International Champions Cup but everything seemed to click into place once the full squad was back to dismantle AS Roma 3-0 in the Joan Gamper Trophy. On Tuesday, they claimed the European Super Cup in an action-packed 5-4 victory over Sevilla. However, both players and coach have expressed concern that there has been very little time to either work on the errors that allowed Sevilla to come back from 4-1 down in that match or to recover from 120 minutes of very gruelling football.

Athletic have only won two of their eight preseason friendlies, and one of those was 14-0 against a local amateur side. They then drew 1-1 against Russian side FC Krasnodar; lost 3-2 to German second division team Greuther Furth; beat Mexico’s Club Tijuana in Idaho, USA; drew 1-1 with both Betis and Valladolid of la Liga and then lost 2-0 to both Osasuna and Inter Milan. However, they got it right when it really mattered, winning their Europa League third qualifying round tie with Inter Baku of Azerbaijan 2-0 on aggregate.

History

One of the oldest fixtures in Spanish football dates right back to the beginning of the 20th century, although more than a rivalry, the close bond between Catalans and Basques means that they have always shared a special kind of friendship. They have 50 Spanish Cup titles between them and have met in the final three times in the last seven years. In 2009, Barça won 4-1 at Mestalla with goals from Touré, Messi, Bojan and Xavi. Barça also won in 2012 at the Vicente Calderón, Pedro getting two of the goals and Messi adding the other, and then made it three out of three last term with a 3-1 win at the Camp Nou, Messi scoring twice and Neymar getting the other.

Coverage

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