Athletic Club travel to Barcelona today with both sides in need of a result. Defeat for Athletic would make it three games without a win and perhaps take away from the feel-good factor at the Nuevo San Mames.
A side-narrative is that Ernesto Valverde is returning to Camp Nou for the first time since he left Barcelona as a manager. Many of the questions directed to Valverde in his pre-match press conference were about Barcelona.
“I’m am excited to win, but not for revenge, but to win the three points, it’s the first rival we have in front of us and it’s difficult. Barcelona is having a great campaign, the other day they played a good game and it will be difficult. It’s a club you’ve been to, there are a lot of people I know and I’ll say hello, and then it will be just another game.”
Diario AS covered his comments. He was also asked whether he though Barcelona were performing up to expectations.
“They are not out of the Champions League yet, there are a couple of games left, and they at a very high level in the League. The other day they lost, but we already know that the defeats there seem to mean more than they are, they always sting, I feel they have enough to go far. The thing is that Madrid are in a sweet moment, in which they play easily and well. A League of many points is predicted. I think Barcelona are doing well because when it seems that they play a little worse, they create eight clear chances and when they do it well, 20.”
Earlier in the week Athletic Club drew 2-2 with Getafe in a frustrating match for Valverde and his side. Twice they threw away the led and failed to see out the points, causing an unusual loss of temper from Valverde.
So far this season Los Leones have attacked plenty and this may be the first match he alters his line-up to include more than solidity. Frequently he has started a front three with Iker Muniain playing behind the striker, although some are suggesting that he may decide to include an extra central midfielder for this clash.