PRICE BOOSTS MAX BET £10
Barcelona aren’t out of the title race with just two points separating them from leaders Atletico, but defeat in El Clasico at the weekend has left them in third place, and they’re in danger of ending a second successive campaign without a trophy.
A win here is a must then, but they understandably start as short-priced favourites. Indeed, Barcelona have reached the final of this competition in six of the last seven seasons, while they’ve emerged as winners in four of the past six.
In fact, Barcelona have beaten Athletic Bilbao themselves in the final on three occasions since 2008/09. The latter also suffered disappointment in last year’s delayed final, going down 1-0 to Real Sociedad at the start of this month, and will be bitterly disappointed to lose two finals in the space of a two weeks.
After some good results initially when Marcelino was appointed in January, Athletic Bilbao have since struggled and they can’t buy a win at the moment, slipping down into the bottom half of La Liga after the most recent round of games.
They’ve managed just two victories over 90 minutes in 15 appearances, drawing 10 of these, while they’re currently winless in six outings.
Still, with Athletic Bilbao able to keep things tight, as just one of their past 16 matches have been settled by more than a single goal one way or the other, they certainly can’t be ruled out.
+1 Handicap Draw
Although all three encounters between the two sides this term have produced at least three goals, the previous seven meetings going back to 2017/18 all saw a maximum of two strikes.
Athletic Bilbao have certainly been competitive, with a W2-D3-L3 record since 2018/19, as the one stalemate that went to extra time saw them claim victory with a winner in this season’s Spanish Super Cup.
That fixture was just one of a number of big games where the Catalans have failed to deliver this term.
They’ve suffered key defeats to the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus and PSG, while their latest El Clasico loss was their third on the bounce to Real Madrid. That doesn’t inspire confidence here, even if their opponents aren’t at the top of their game.
Ronald Koeman has a tactical decision to make, with the current back-three system falling short against Real Madrid.
He may well revert to a back four with Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique available again, while further forwards, Ansu Fati and Phillip Coutinho remain long-term absentees.
The returns of those defenders should help Barcelona steady the ship and salvage a trophy this season.
Nine of Athletic Bilbao’s last 12 defeats this term come by one-goal margins, including each of the past five, so the margin of victory looks a good way to get the favourites on side.