Barcelona vs Athletic Club match preview and predictions for Saturday’s Copa del Rey showdown. Read on for the head-to-head, team news and predicted lineups as Athletic play their second cup final of the month.
|Saturday 17th April 2021
|21:30 (local time)
|Copa del Rey
Barcelona vs Athletic Club Preview
It’s Cup Final day in Spain for the second time in a fortnight this Saturday. Again it involves Athletic Club, losers in the rearranged 2020 Final earlier in the month. While that all-Basque affair was the one they were most desperate to win, victory here over clear favourites Barcelona would not be a bad consolation prize at all!
These sides have already met in a Final at this stadium in 2021. That was a cracking game as Athletic ended up 3-2 winners in the Supercopa with Inaki Williams hammering home the winner in Extra Time. That ought to give the Basque side confidence that they can repeat the trick here but it’s likely to be a much tougher game.
Overall, Barcelona are playing better football now than they were a few months back and they are in strong contention for a domestic double. That would be quite an extraordinary achievement in many respects given how poorly they started the season and the dark clouds that have hung over Camp Nou over the past year.
Ronald Koeman’s side did suffer defeat in the Clasico last weekend though. There is still a sense that Barca are vulnerable defensively but they caused problems for Los Blancos after the break and there is a much stronger identity to this side now. This cup final offers an opportunity for the likes of Pedri and Frenkie de Jong to pick up their first silverware as Barcelona players and to some extent victory may just mark the first step in the Catalan club’s bid to rebuild a young team capable of challenging for many more trophies over the coming years.
Athletic will be tough opponents although it’s doubtful their Final defeat on this ground just a fortnight ago will help their cause. Marcelino really needs to find a way for his team to get that loss out of their minds and treat this as a fresh game and embrace what is another of the biggest games the club has played since their last true golden era in the early to mid 1980’s.
Real Sociedad and Athletic met again in LaLiga just four days after that cup Final with a mistake from Unai Simon gifting La Real a late point. Athletic’s only other game since was also a Basque derby – a goalless draw at home to Alaves last weekend where Marcelino opted to rest a number of his key players with this game clearly the priority.
Head to Head
- Last 6 Competitive Meetings: 3 Barcelona Wins, 3 Athletic Wins.
- The sides have met three times already in 2021 with Barcelona winning both league games.
- Athletic were 3-2 winners after Extra Time in the Supercopa Final in January.
- Athletic also won the last Copa del Rey meeting – a 1-0 win in the Quarter Finals last year.
Athletic rested a number of regulars in their last league game and we should see a more familiar line-up here with Peru Nolaskoain their only definite absence.
Barcelona have Gerard Pique fit again and he is expected to start this game. That may mean a return to a 4-3-3 with Frenkie de Jong operating in midfield.
Predicted Barcelona Starting Lineup:
Simon – Berchiche, Martinez, Yeray, De Marcos – Muniain, Vencedor, Dani Garcia, Berenguer – Garcia, Williams (4-4-2)
Predicted Athletic Starting Lineup:
Ter Stegen – Alba, Lenglet, Pique, Mingueza – De Jong, Busquets, Pedri – Dembele, Messi, Griezmann (4-3-3)
Barcelona vs Athletic Club Predictions
LaLiga Expert Predicts: Barcelona 2-1 Athletic Club
It’s going to be a real mental challenge as much as anything for Athletic. To stand a chance in this game, they really need to find a way to blank out their defeat in the 2020 Final and even if they can do that, it’s going to be tough. Barcelona have regularly been unconvincing in the big games this season but their fine Semi-Final comeback against Sevilla, not to mention their overall form and performance levels since the turn of the year, should breed confidence and they look much the more likely winners.