Athletic Bilbao vs FC Barcelona: La Liga Preview and Prediction
Barcelona will be looking to make a winning start to their 2019-20 La Liga campaign when the Spanish champions travel to San Mames to face Athletic Bilbao on Friday night.
The Catalan giants once again proved to be the best team that Spain have to offer last season, while Bilbao ended the campaign in eighth position - eight points off fourth-placed Valencia.
Thirteen wins, 14 draws and 11 defeats - that is how Bilbao performed in La Liga last season; a total of 53 points left them in eighth position, which means that they have missed out on European football for this campaign.
That said, Bilbao deserve huge credit for consistently performing to a high standard when considering their limitations in the transfer market.
It has been a relatively quiet summer for the Basque outfit, who have managed to tie key player Inaki Williams to a new long-term contract amid reported interest from Manchester United.
There is no question that the lack of European football will be a disappointment for the club. However, there will be no distractions for the team aside from the Copa del Rey.
It will be up to the likes of Williams and Iker Muniain to score the goals once again, and it remains to be seen what type of campaign the fans can expect.
Bilbao have not actually beaten Barca in a home league game since December 2013. The Spanish champions are likely to be without a certain Lionel Messi for this encounter, though, and Garitano's side will certainly be looking to catch the champions off-guard in the opening fixture.
A record of 26 wins, nine draws and just three defeats saw Barca collect 87 points last season, which ultimately saw them finish 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid.
It was not quite as comfortable as the previous campaign, although Ernesto Valverde's side were again far too strong for the rest.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows, though, with Barca incredibly being knocked out by Liverpool in the semi-finals of the Champions League, in addition to losing the Copa del Rey final to Valencia.
It was always going to be an interesting transfer window for the club and they certainly did not disappoint - Antoine Griezmann was the big-money arrival, but deals for the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Junior Firpo have seen Valverde improve his squad in vital areas.
Herrerin, De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche, San Jose, D. Garcia, Muniain, R. Garcia, Ibai, Williams
Ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, De Jong, Busquets, Roberto, Dembele, L Suarez, Griezmann
Iker Muniain vs Sergio Busquets
Inigo Martinez vs Luis Suarez
Head To Head
Both league matches between the two teams last season finished level - the points being shared in a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in September 2018 before a goalless draw at San Mames in February.
Barca have won on four of their last five trips to San Mames in the league, though, and have not lost to the Basque outfit inside their own stadium since December 2013.
Bilbao, meanwhile, have won just two of their last 13 home La Liga fixtures against Barca.
Athletic Bilbao 1-1 FC Barcelona
It is difficult to back an easy victory for FC Barcelona as they are especially without their talisman Lionel Messi. Bilbao are a team capable of picking up big results in front of their own supporters.
It is not the easiest of away grounds to pick up 3 points, given the fact that it is Gameweek 1. We, therefore, predict a draw.