Copa del Rey Barca vs Bilbao : match preview
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has asked his players to forget their 6-0 thumping of Athletic Bilbao as the two teams prepare to meet for the second time in a row in four days in the Copa del Rey.
The Catalans ran mayhem in their La Liga clash against Athletic at the Nou Camp back on Sunday when, after visiting keeper Gorka Iraizoz was shown a red card just five minutes in for unethically bringing down Luis Suarez, they cruised to victory with the Uruguay striker scoring a second-half hat-trick.
However, as he prepared with his squad for the first leg of the quarter-final match between the clubs at the Estadio de San Mames this Wednesday evening, Enrique issued a serious word of caution.
It will be the fifth encounter between the sides this season with Bilbao having defeated Barca 4-0 on home ground in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup encounter between the two sides in August and recording an impressive 1-1 draw in a stormy return at their Nou Camp campaign.
Enrique’s men got their much anticipated revenge with a 1-0 league victory at San Mames later the very same month, and the manager knows very well that they will be facing a hostile reception this time around.
He said: “We’re used to those situations, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. We need to use it as a stimulation. The more heated the atmosphere in San Mames, the more we need to turn it around for us.”
Athletic chief Ernesto Valverde will once again have his striker Aritz Aduriz, who scored a blistering 15-minute hat-trick in the early-season victory over Barca, at his disposal after his return from suspension.
Enrique will be without the help of Suarez as he serves a two-match cup ban still for allegedly provoking a heated confrontation with Espanyol players in the previous round, and also injured full-back Jordi Alba adding to the pressure.
However, he will have to make a late decision on Argentina striker Lionel Messi after he limped out rather weekly of Sunday’s game with a reportedly tight hamstring, although tests have shown no sign of lasting damage.