A Visit From the Lions: Barça-Athletic

Liga Preview: Barcelona – Athletic Bilbao, Sunday 3pmEST, GolTV(HD)

I’ll admit that I’m having trouble getting it together for this preview. Part of it is my natural inclination towards not using energy during weekends. Another part of it comes from the extra bottle of wine we had a dinner last night. And another part has to do with the fact that I’m a stupid Yankee muppet. Or at least that’s what they’re saying and since they’re so eloquent, I’m forced to agree.

I have a definite soft spot for Athletic Bilbao. I’m not entirely sure why, but I do. I think it’s got to do with their attitude towards youth development or their ability to stay in the top division all these years. It’s pretty incredible given their budget and talent pool, so I can’t help feeling something for them and hoping that they’ll do well. Except, of course, when they play us. We beat them 1-3 at San Mames in late September and then drew with them 0-0 and the Camp Nou and 1-1 at San Mames in the Copa del Rey.

Those last 2 games were tight and Athletic could have come away with a win in both of them so we have to be aware that we’re in no way out of the woods yet. And another thing: Abidal will probably not score. But if he does, carbomb time wooo. The Lady will not be happy with that, but it’s a law of the land. The consequences of breaking that rule would be devastating. I like my hands.

Bilbao are looking to get closer to Villarreal and that 4th Champions League spot, so they’ll want to leave the Camp with some points. Failing to do so could mean a 10 point deficit to the Yellow Submarine and Valencia (who could be tied with 48 points) and perhaps even being leapfrogged by Espanyol, who sit just 1 point behind los leones. So they’re coming to town with:

Iraizoz, Toquero, Koikili, Ustaritz, Amorebieta, David López, Iturraspe, Llorente, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Raúl, Susaeta, Iraola, Gurpegi, Castillo, Javi Martínez, Muniain, Ekiza.

Gotta keep an eye on Muniain and Llorente, of course, but Javi Martinez can control the midfield. There’s no doubt that they’re strong and capable and that they’ve studied up on Sporting and Arsenal’s successes against us. With our lead down to 2 points thanks to RM’s (predictable) victory over Levante it’s up to us to get it back to 5 points (and really 6 since we have the tiebreaker).

For our part, we’ll be missing Puyol and Jeffren once again, meaning we’ll probably start Pique and Abidal in the center with Maxwell out wide. I can imagine, however, starting Milito because of Llorente and Toquero’s physical presence and letting Abidal do his damage on the wing. I’d prefer that but I’m not Guardiola. Puyol’s continued absence is okay for now, but I’d like to see him back in action against Mallorca next weekend just to get him some reps before the Arsenal match when Pique will be missing.

Official Prediction: 2-0, goals by Messi (2). It’s time la pulga atomica got back on track and I think in front of the home crowd he’ll do just that.

Plus, as the following picture suggests, we need to defeat them for the good of humanity. Rule #2 is double tap.

Busi vs the Zombie

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. I absolutely love Athletic Bilbao as well. Lovely lovely team with great tradition and a great stadium.
    And don’t you worry about those Gunner fans. They are the same people who would have torn Wenger apart had we managed to score the second goal in the first half. What is of far more interest is how carried away they are getting. It was a 2-1 victory achieved through counterattack in their own park, after they had been owned for 78 minutes. I’m not saying Arsenal will not qualify to the quarters (as far as I’m concerned it’s still 50-50), but to judge from their reactions you’d think they already made the final and bagged the trophy too. There is still ’90 to play for, and Messi cannot play as badly as he did in London (at least I hope not).

    1. And by the way, I think it will be a draw. Mallorca is the place we leave our February blues behind. So. A 3pt lead over EE with February gone. That’s not so bad.

  2. I’m a stupid Yankee muppet

    I rather preferred “gormless freak”, myself. 😛

    Nice, if brief, preview. I have a soft spot for Bilbao too, for the same reasons you mentioned and for their utter determination to give the “big” teams the fight of their lives.

    That picture is awesome, btw!

  3. Oh, I got distracted by Pathetico scoring and forgot to post my lineup for tomorrow:

    Alves Pique Milito Abidal
    Xavi Busquets Iniesta
    Pedro Messi Villa

    Subs: Afellay (Iniesta), Mascherano (Xavi), Bojan (Villa)

    Score 3-1, goals by Messi (2), Alves

  4. According to your “friends” we Yanks are supposed to stick to baseball and American football. We also should support our local teams (not a whole lot of options locally for most of us here so we “adopt” European teams). So far as I recall, your blog on Soccernet was Barca specific. Must be nice having all that time to waste trolling other team’s blogs.

    I think we’ve got to start with a strong lineup tomorrow and then try to sub, not like last Saturday when we started lighter and had to move in with some starters out of desparation. Once we kill the game Messi must come off (whether he likes it or not), he’s not a machine!

    Apparently, Messi is having a crisis if front of goal. It’s been 2 whole games and he hasn’t scored. Pep had to defend him to the media (see below from the club website). WHAT! Before his “goal drought” he scored a hat trick and an international goal and has assisted in the last 2 games. This is a slump? Holy crap, leave the kid alone!

    “Guardiola also defended Messi from those people who’ve been questioning him after just two games without a goal: “the handicap he has are his great stats. He has to be strong enough to assume all the expectations that the world has of him after he’s done so many fantastic things already”. ”

  5. The picture, Busi and the zombie, is priceless! So now Busi is the zombie hunter looking for a twinkie!

  6. Whoevers playing LB against against Arsenal @ da camp nou needs to play every game leading up to that match. We have back-up lbs currently lacking match sharpness, in fact only Smash plays at the same pace as da starters when brought on.

  7. 3-1 Villa Messi (x2) Although I’m hoping for a clean sheet, I think they may sneak one past us.

    Milito should start as Llorente doesn’t have the pace to make him suffer and We’ll control the ball.

    I want to see Afellay for Iniesta because I think he plays better at Midfield, He has no space at the wings to use.

    Bojan for Pedro to give David Villa more time because he’s usually the one subbed, He could score a goal in the dying minutes.

    They both should get sufficient time, not 87th minute substitution that they usually get.

  8. I’d want Iniesta in unless he’s injured. didn’t like the throwaway on Barcastuff the other day about him playing in pain since the shoulder injury.

  9. Well it looks like Pinto will start in goal 2moro guys. Reports are starting to emerge that Valdes has problems with his knee.

  10. Game is way too important to go back to Milito. I’d like to see
    Alves Pique Busquets Abidal
    Affelay/ Xavi Iniesta
    Bojan/Pedro Messi and Villa

  11. That Phillips Norelco advertisement is a bit much!

    In terms of FCB, I’m torn between seeing a sure-fire lineup and getting our guys some rest/rotation. How far along are we on that Abidal-cloning technology?

  12. Isaiah, quite the gooner-fest you commenced in the soccernet blog. It is a shame their fans must be quite the bullies, how many trophies have they won as of late to really be that bastardly? Anyways, enjoy that article as well as this preview.

    Predicting some great football, a 3-1, I can see them scoring on us with Maxwell still playing that LB position. No milito, not yet.

  13. I barcastuff has been reporting that through the last 3 games Iniesta has been playing through pain – if so, maybe it explains the lack of his usual form.

    Perhaps we should rest him. It is not the best game to do so, but we will need him later on and he needs to be 100% healthy.

    No prediction, just win!

  14. We r in a bad form now, lets hope we get out of it soon, our next match is saturday away to mallorca, so i dont think there will be any squad rotation today, we have enough time to rest after this one.
    A piece of history: in 2004/05 after our elimination from the champions league by chelsea (i know we r still in the champions league so far)our next opponent was Athletic club bilbao, we won that match 2-0, im going for a 2-0 win here as well.
    All the posts from the last few days didnt help make me feel better, i still feel like someone kicked me in the ……, but thanks for effort anyway.

    1. It’s the February blues…
      it’s been like this for 3 years in a row now (under Pep Guardiola)

      doesn’t sound make sense, huh? but it happened…
      we’re going down every February…

      let’s hope this (I’m not gonna say crisis, of course) “choke” will be over soon…

    2. I guess that is what goes in circles like a mantra in my head since Gijon: “It’s February Blues, March will make it all better!” or “Not a crisis, just a dip!” 🙂

  15. Hoping for a victory and some nice rest for Iniesta, Messi(a nice spank on his arse if he is not ready to get off, needs some bloody rest) & Pique… INiesta playing with that injury for 3 matches now, Messi with his fatigue & Pique playing with his pain-killer injections don’t know for how long. It will kill us if the care isn’t taken at the right time!!

    1. I think they’re talking about the reports that came out a couple weeks (?) ago saying that Pique was receiving injections in his foot for bursitis, or something of the sort. I don’t know if the problem has resolved, but barcastuff was talking about it then.

    2. yeah, how long was it, three weeks? since the injury, before we knew that he was medicating himself. nobody had a clue… so, who knows, anytime now, somebody slightly underperforming in the squad might be doing the same o_0

    1. i know vv’s case is greater than the others’ but if he gets to rest for a discomfort then why don’t they rest messi or iniesta at least just half a match too cos i think the fatigue plus mental stress/pressure could let their performances down awhile…

  16. We will kill it this match. And as for Arsenal, in our home we’ll make them ‘feel like a plastic bag blowing in the wind’. We’re ‘just gonna stand there and watch them burn’. It’ll be so bad Cesc will be ‘feeling a little drunk and need us now’, but he won’t get his wish in the ‘bad romance’ he has with us cos Barca, you’re perfect ‘just the way you are’. Gooners are gonna make like Cee Lo Green and spam us saying ‘f**k you’. Wenger is gonna take a flight to Clairefontaine and go ‘baby, baby baby ohhh’. I’m so so bored right now and in this state of mind this crap seems amusing. Hmm I’m sure I can do better, hmm. Bojan will score and have a ‘teenage dream’ while being ‘a fiiirework’ and ‘letting his cooolors burn, making Pique go oooh oooh oooh as he shoots across the sky’. As Katy Perry tells us, we shouldn’t worry cos ‘after every hurricane theres a rainbow’. Uhh, we’ll go ‘raa raa ra uh ah ramaa ramamaa gaga ooh la la’ on them.

    God i need a life

    1. Love that stupid song 🙂

      Now you’ve got me humming the “…caught in a bad romance…” 🙂

  17. I fEel milito should play tonight has he would probably play against arsenal. He neeDs the rep. I hope aLl these injuries and fatigue doesn’t affect us. ReaLly looking forward to a wEek of rest for the squad

  18. Didn’t know that Iniesta went into the Arsenal match with a knock. This would certainly explain the ‘off’ night…Any confirmation on the lineups yet? I’m really worried now over Andresito.

    I just hope that Bilbao doesn’t nick an early goal on us otherwise we could be in for a looong night. At worst they’ll settle for the nil-nil draw so I hope we strike quickly forcing them on the back foot.

  19. Can Anyone see the resemblance between Andres Palop and Ahmed Ezz (an Egyptian actor) or is it just me ?



  20. From barcastuff
    Official: Valdes has a distension of the posterior capsule of the left knee and will start treament. No recovery time is indicated

    The hell does that even mean?

    1. From BS.com:

      Valdes’ injury looks to be more serious than initially feared, with reports emanating from Spain suggesting that he could be out of action for as long as six weeks. The keeper is likely to need surgery, meaning that Jose Pinto will be required to deputise during a crucial spell of Barca’s season.


    2. As.com is gloating that VV is going to be down for 6 weeks :(((

      I know, I know – they always exaggerate, but man, why, why, why??? 🙁

    3. well apparently its like a soft tissue injury like a twisted knee or tendinitis..so it shouldn’t be that serious..
      when I first read I was thinking of a posterior Cruciate Ligament injury like the one Henry had

    4. Someone you least expect to get injured goes out for 6 weeks! Perfect opportunity for Pinto to perfect his in-game whistle blowing antic 🙁

    1. Dude migrate to greener pastures aka the West :), Africa will also do. Just kidding, I remember those days watching Barca matches at late night then showing up late in office with red eyes.

    2. I wish they were late at night, at least I could watch them then. And I do plan on migrating to ‘greener’ pastures, though it’s difficult to get greener pastures than New Zealand 🙂

  21. Wats with all this witholding of the recovery date of late.
    Our physios are fantastic at beating dates. Puyol and valdez being out till further notice is jus too much too soon

  22. Line-up (official): Pinto – Alves Pique Busquets Abidal – Xavi Mascherano Iniesta – Pedro Messi Villa

    Busquets at CB!!!!!

  23. Official
    Pinto – Alves , Pique , Busquets , Abidal – Xavi , Mascherano , Iniesta – Pedro, Messi , Villa

    Masche as CM, Busquets as CB

    This might be the line-up against Arsenal

    1. I don’t think Guardiola will go down this route… Busquets is way to vital for our possession game.

    2. well this is certainly a test out for the Arsenal match as Pep has no confidence in Milito at all right now and he has finally realized Maxwell is no match against top class teams. With Pique being suspend and all for the Arsenal match this lineup is all expected.We might even see SMash at CB some point in the match aswell.

      Plus SMash will add alot in countering Arsenal on their counter-attacks or quick breaks..

    3. I guess I am not the only one who doesn’t trust Maxwell in a game against strong, fast opposition…

    4. Personally, I’m pretty optimistic for this lineup, simply because I can’t have too much faith in Maxwell or Milito lately.

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