BARCELONA: Barcelona’s players face Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday with revenge on their minds after losing to the Basque side in the Spanish Super Cup final almost two weeks ago.
After inflicting Barca’s only defeat in their past 13 matches in all competitions, Bilbao are their opponents for the third time this month after the Catalans won 3-2 away in their delayed league fixture on Jan 6.
“We just want to go game-by-game and move up the Liga table, reducing the distance between us and first place,” coach Ronald Koeman said after Wednesday’s Copa del Rey last-16 victory over Rayo Vallecano.
Barca currently sit third in the table, 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid having played a game more and can ill-afford to drop any more points if they are to close the gap.
“We want to carry on winning and we’re showing that mentality in all competitions we play in,” said Koeman.
“When you win, players don’t feel quite as tired. Positive results give you a lot of confidence. We’ll be fine for Sunday against Athletic.”
Koeman remains without injured quartet Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho and Sergi Roberto but full back Sergino Dest returns from a thigh problem.
Earlier on Sunday, Atletico visit Cadiz, who in their first top flight campaign since 2005-06 have secured famous victories over Barca and Real Madrid and will be looking to add the runaway leaders to their list of high-profile scalps.
On Saturday, champions Real Madrid, without coach Zinedine Zidane on the sidelines as he continues to isolate following a positive COVID-19 test, host Levante without up to five first team regulars available, including captain Sergio Ramos.
Elsewhere on Saturday, fifth plays sixth as Villarreal welcome Real Sociedad, while the weekend’s action finishes on Monday when Osasuna travel to Real Betis. – Reuters