Barcelona will be bidding to make it back-to-back wins in La Liga when they welcome Athletic Bilbao to Camp Nou on Sunday night.
The Catalan outfit are currently second in the table, three points behind leaders Real Madrid on the same number of games, while Athletic occupy sixth spot, two points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona suffered their first La Liga defeat of the season in El Clasico last weekend, with Real Madrid recording a 3-1 victory at Bernabeu, and the reigning champions then moved six points clear at the summit by beating basement side Elche on Wednesday night.
As a result, there was pressure on Barcelona heading into Thursday’s game with Villarreal, but a strong performance allowed the Catalan side to cut the gap back to three points, with Robert Lewandowski scoring twice before Ansu Fati registered in a 3-0 success at Camp Nou.
Xavi’s side will be pleased with their start to the league season, collecting 25 points from 10 matches, scoring 24 goals in the process and conceding just four.
However, the team face a huge battle to qualify for the knockout round of the Champions League, with four points from four matches leaving them third in Group C, three points behind second-placed Inter Milan.
Barcelona will welcome Bayern Munich to Camp Nou in the competition next week, but their hopes of reaching the round of 16 could be over by the time that the match kicks off, as Inter will be in action earlier on against Viktoria Plzen, and a victory would see the Italian side qualify with a game to spare.
Athletic, meanwhile, have also made a strong start to the 2022-23 campaign, winning five, drawing three and losing two of their 10 league games, which has left them in sixth position on 18 points.
The Basque outfit are just two points behind fourth-placed Atletico on the same number of matches, but they are winless in their last three, drawing with Sevilla and Getafe, in addition to losing at home to Atletico.
Athletic will face Barcelona, Villarreal, Girona and Real Valladolid in their four games before the campaign breaks for the World Cup, and they will be expecting to be in and around the top four by the time that the season comes to a halt.
Ernesto Valverde’s side finished eighth in La Liga last season, but they were fourth in 2013-14 and certainly have a squad capable of challenging for a European finish this term.
The Lions, who have only conceded eight times in the league this term, have not beaten Barcelona in the league since August 2019, while they suffered a 4-0 defeat on their last visit to Camp Nou back in February.
Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Athletic Bilbao La Liga form:
We say: Barcelona 3-1 Athletic Bilbao
Athletic have a lot of quality in the final third of the field and will fancy their chances of scoring on Sunday night despite Barcelona’s impressive defensive record this season. That said, it is difficult to back against the hosts considering their quality, and we are expecting Xavi’s side to secure all three points.