La Liga returns on Friday night, with a classic clash between Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona at San Mames.
The home side will be looking to end a poor run of form against the Catalan giants that has seen the Basque team win just one of the last 13 games between the two teams in all competitions.
Despite claiming draws in both league meetings last season, Athletic will be up against it to take anything from this difficult opening fixture. Their task will be made the more difficult by a lack of summer signings. Their only new squad members coming from the B team.
Barcelona are looking to retain the Spanish top-flight title for a third straight campaign. The reigning champions have strengthened their squad by bringing in the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Junior Firpo.
Ernesto Valverde’s team are once again the favourites for the Spanish top-flight title they will expect to open the campaign with a victory in the Basque country. In fact, the Blaugrana are big favourites to kick-off their title defence with a victory.
The champions are unbeaten at San Mames in La Liga since 2013 and will be confident of maintaining that record on the opening day of season 2019/20.
Athletic Bilbao (Home win available at odds of 4/1)
Athletic Bilbao experienced an inconsistent campaign last season. However, they eventually finished eighth-place in La Liga after a mixed end to the campaign that cost them any chance of finishing in the European spots.
The clubs transfer policy of only signing players of Basque heritage has made it difficult to strengthen their squad in recent seasons. However, Athletic does have a big reputation for nurturing youth players, so the youngsters stepping up from the clubs B team could well be the next generation to thrive at San Mames.
Athletic are tough nuts to crack on home soil. In fact, they are currently 14 matches unbeaten at San Mames in La Liga, while losing just
Barcelona (Away win available at odds of 8/13)
The reigning champions look even stronger than last season. The summer signings have been clever ones, strengthening in areas of the pitch that was much-needed. Griezmann will add pace to the attack, while De Jong will bring control and poise to the centre of the park. However, the least unheralded signing of the trio Firpo could prove to be key, as the Catalan giants have struggled in the full-back areas.
Barcelona were strong enough last season, losing just one of their last 26 matches. With the new arrivals, they should be an even more formidable prospect for opposition teams.
In truth, Bilbao is never an easy place for any team to go. Even the big guns of Spain have trouble winning at San Mames. However, you always have to fancy Barcelona against virtually any opposition, they have such quality.
The home side will look to defy the visitors for as long as they can. Barcelona through the likes of the aforementioned Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez will have enough to grind out a win. Although Barcelona are renowned for their attacking prowess, under 2.5 goals looks like a good punt here, as well as the obvious bet of an away win.