NEWS
Saturday October 28 2017
Preview: Athletic-Barca

Javier Mascherano is a late casualty for Barcelona as Ernesto Valverde returns to former club Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

A sudden fever has prevented Mascherano from traveling to Athletic, so B pair – defender David Costas and midfielder Oriol Busquets – have been drafted into Barca’s squad.

The Argentine subsequently becomes the Blaugrana’s seventh absence after Thomas Vermaelen, Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal, Rafinha, Ousmane Dembele and Andres Iniesta.

However, Jordi Alba has recovered from a thigh injury to return at left-back.

Valverde coached Athletic over two spells, guiding them to the Supercopa in 2015 – their first piece of silverware in 31 years – and becoming the Leones Coach with the most appearances under his belt (306).

Athletic, on the other hand, cannot call on key trio Mikel Balenziaga, Oscar De Marcos and Iker Muniain – all of whom are on the treatment table – while Yeray Alvarez is still on the mend from his cancer treatment.

Jose Angel Ziganda, Valverde’s successor, is feeling the heat after just five wins in his first 15 games at the helm.

Worse yet, the Basques have beaten Barca only twice in La Liga since 2003, although both of those victories came at home.

Athletic Bilbao (probable): Kepa; Boveda, Nunez, Laporte, Saborit; San Jose, Iturraspe; Williams, Raul Garcia, Cordoba; Aduriz

Injuries/suspensions: Balenziaga, De Marcos, Yeray, Muniain (I)

Barcelona (probable): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Sergi Roberto, Rakitic, Busquets, Paulinho; Messi, Suarez

Injuries/suspensions: Vermaelen, Arda, Iniesta, Vidal, Rafinha, Dembele, Mascherano (I)

Referee: Martinez Munuera

Form guide: Athletic - 11th (L W L D L) Barca - 1st (W D W W W)

Previous meeting: Barca 3-0 Athletic

Venue: San Mames

Kick-off time: 19:45 BST/20:45 local time (LIVE on Football Espana)

Football Italia website