Barca braced for tough test in crunch cup clash
Catalans could falter on the road
Copa del Rey
Ivan Rakitic's 21st-minute strike was the difference between the sides when they met in August and Athletic have not lost a home game since.
So it's no surprise to see Luis Enrique name Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in his squad for this Copa del Rey fixture, but the hosts may possess the tools to avoid defeat.
Ernesto Valverde's men are in decent form. They beat rivals Racing 5-1 on aggregate in the round of 32 to set up this two-leg showdown with the cup holders.
Since that 1-0 loss to Barca in the summer they've played 11 games on home soil with ten wins and a draw.
Losses at home and away to Barcelona in this competition last season should provide ample motivation for Athletic, and Enrique is anticipating a tough time against the master pressers.
Barca are unbeaten in over two months but with a huge league match on Sunday at Villarreal, the manager will make changes.
He insists his MSN striking trinity are all fit and training well but none of them played in the 7-0 romp against Hercules in the last round – despite the match being finely balanced after a 1-1 draw in Alicante – and it would be a surprise if all three start this evening.
1pt 16-5 Betway