- La Liga takes to the pitch for a single match on Wednesday (3:00 pm ET), as Athletic Bilbao hosts Barcelona in a battle of two sides looking to leapfrog the competition by claiming all three points in this mid-week clash
- Though the matchup has traditionally been dominated by Barça, Athletic has more than held its own in recent years — despite an overall downturn in results for the Basque outfit
- Get a breakdown of both clubs, Wednesday’s odds and a few value picks below
While manager Ronald Koeman readily admits that Barcelona’s (8-4-4) domestic title hopes are all but extinguished, the Blaugrana have strung together some respectable results of late and finally clawed back into the top-five.
While the heady days of top-7 finishes and European runs are behind it, Athletic Bilbao (6-3-8) remains a cultural icon in its corner of Spain — and a competitive mid-table side with the potential to go pound-for-pound with anybody in Spain on the right day.
Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Odds
|Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona||ATH +0.5 (+102) | BAR -0.5 (-124)||ATH +330 | BAR -122 | DRAW +270||Ov 2.5 (-120) | Un 2.5 (-105)|
Odds taken Jan 4 at DraftKings
The head-to-head history in the matchup is somewhat misleading.
While Barça has lost to Athletic just twice in 27 league meetings dating back to 2007, one of those came at the beginning of last season (August 2019) and — including last season’s Copa Del Rey quarterfinal triumph — the latter has actually won two of the last three contests across all competitions.
Athletic Bilbao: Unders Galore
Defense has carried the day for Bilbao over the past few weeks, with the Under 2.5 hitting in each of its last four games — two of which saw Gaizka Garitano’s squad record a clean sheet.
Garitano was dismissed as Bilbao coach and replaced by former Valencia bench boss Marcelino on Monday; the 55-year-old’s first game in charge will be Barça on Wednesday.
IN MARCELINO WE TRUST! 🙏🏽 https://t.co/I4MiviZJ7d
— Iñaki Urrutia (@InakiUrrutia) January 5, 2021
It’s clear that a leaky first half of December, which included seven conceded goals in three matches (0-1-2), had a lasting impact on the tactical setup for Basque Country’s unofficial national team.
It’s all about consolidation for Bilbao this season; a rough start has left Europe out of the question, and Athletic’s tighter defensive structure will be key to ensuring the smooth mid-table season they ought to achieve.
Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Stats
|6-3-8 (1.24 pts/game)||2020-21 La Liga Record||8-4-4 (1.75 pts/game)|
|19 (1.12/game)||Goals scored||30 (1.88/game)|
|19 (1.12/game)||Goals conceded||15 (0.94/game)|
|Muniain, Iñaki Williams (3)||Leading Scorer||Lionel Messi (7)|
|W – L – D – W – L||La Liga Form||W – D – W – D – W|
|5-27-9||H2H Record Since 2007 (W-L-T)||27-5-9|
Bilbao’s success in recent years against Barça is almost entirely tied to its ability to shut down Leo Messi and co.
Prior to the respectable 2-1-1 run over the past two years — holding Barcelona to Under 1.5 goals in every game — Bilbao lost five straight to Wednesday’s visitors in a stretch where they averaged 2.8 conceded goals/game.
Barcelona: Destined for Third?
The reality is this: Barça had a terrible start to the domestic campaign, but a few strong weeks have propelled Koeman’s side back into the European places.
Lionel Messi appears ready to depart at the end of the season, and the club’s future at the top of the continental club game appears at least somewhat murky.
On the pitch, efficiency has carried the day for the Blaugrana — especially away from home, where their contests average 2.0 total goals/match.
Best case: A continued surge in the league carries the squad past Real Sociedad and Villarreal and back into a comfortable top three spot. Worst case? Barça has to battle with those two plus Sevilla as an obvious cut below the title contenders from the capital in Atletico and Real Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Best Bets
Recent history shows that Athletic is more than capable of holding its own against its Catalan counterparts on Wednesday.
We believe that the hosts’ recent strong defensive form, combined with a Barça that’s been challenged for offense in recent weeks against the likes of Eibar and Huesca, points to the potential for an Under 2.5 play.
Additionally, Bilbao is the second-best defensive team at home in La Liga — having conceded just five times in eight matches at San Mames this season.
Picks: Athletic Bilbao +0.5 ( +102), Under 2.5 (-105)
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