Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona - 8PM UK time Sunday evening
Second placed Barcelona will presumably be keeping a close eye on the Calderon on Saturday night, before travelling Sunday to the Basque Country to face Athletic Bilbao.
Luis Enrique’s side are buoyant at the moment, with the early January internal rows behind them, and seven consecutive wins in all competitions. That the two most recent victories [both 3-2s against Atletico in the Copa and Villarreal in La Liga] have seen the team come from behind to triumph has only strengthened a feeling of confidence around the Camp Nou.
A rare empty midweek has also given the blaugrana squad time to rest up, with Lionel Messi seen skiing in the Pyrenees with his family, and Neymar and Gerard Pique sent to Qatar on commercial duty. Luis Enrique is therefore likely to keep rotation to a minimum - with perhaps Ivan Rakitic and Jeremy Mathieu the only two changes from last week’s XI.
The trip to San Mames has been a tricky one for Barca recently, with draws in 2011/12 and 2012/13 and a 1-0 defeat last season. Athletic’s form has also picked up - with a 2-0 win at Levante last week secured by two goals from fit again centre-forward Aritz Aduriz being their first in La Liga since November.
Los Leones will be missing right-back Andoni Iraola through suspension and injured holding midfielder Ander Iturraspe, but one could argue that replacements Oscar de Marcos and Mikel San Jose are in better form.
Barca did struggle earlier this season on the road, and their last defeat was also in the Basque Country – at Real Sociedad in early January. But that seems a long time ago now. Once the visiting defence can stop Aduriz and San Jose at set-pieces, Messi and Neymar should ensure their team should win this easily enough.
Predicted result: Athletic 0-2 Barcelona at 7.50
Best bet: Away team to win without conceding a goal 2.10