Athletic Bilbao vs FC Barcelona: All you need to know about this match
With Catalonia seeking independence from Spain, speculation has been rife about what that might mean for Barca in the future – including whether the 24-time Spanish champions will still be competing in La Liga.
However, Valverde insists he is only looking at on-field matters as he attempts to improve on a miserable personal record as a visitor to San Mames.
When asked if he could imagine La Liga without Barcelona, he told a press conference: “That hasn’t happened and we’re talking about hypothetical situations.
“The reality is that we have a league game and we will try to win it.
“It’s impossible to stay informed about the political situation. Yesterday was a busy day, as is today and it’s not over. We’re focusing on ourselves. My responsibility is that my team wins.”
If Valverde manages to achieve that on Saturday, it would be the first time in seven attempts as a visiting player or coach that he will have returned from San Mames as a victor.
He enjoyed plenty of success at the ground while on Athletic’s books, though, and knows full well what Barcelona can expect to face this weekend.
“The statistics aren’t really in my favour, but I will try to change them,” said the 53-year-old, who spent four years in charge of Athletic before taking over at Barca this summer.
“They are a very strong team at San Mames. Not only now but in years gone by.
“We have to be ready to deal with the pressure. The fans really push the team on and never give up. They have a great spirit. That’s not new.
“Obviously for me it’s a special game. But now I’m a rival and I will try to make sure my team wins.”
Barca head into the weekend boasting a four-point lead at the top of La Liga after an unbeaten start which has brought eight wins from nine games.
Athletic, meanwhile, have struggled for consistency under Valverde’s successor, Jose Angel Ziganda, and lie 11th with 11 points.
They beat Sevilla 1-0 in their last home match but that is the Basque club’s only victory in their last 10 games in all competitions – although seven of those matches were away from home.
The Blaugrana lead the league by four points ahead of Valencia, while Athletic are 11th after an indifferent start to the season. Yet the Basque club still boasts enough quality to shock Barca on home soil, with veteran centre-forward Aritz Aduriz and winger Inaki Williams both legitimate match-winners.
Of course, match-winners aren’t in short supply for Barcelona, who rested marquee stars Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta for the Copa del Rey win in Murcia in midweek. Meanwhile, manager Ernesto Valverde will return to Bilbao for the first time after leaving Athletic in the summer.
Competition – La liga
Date: Saturday, October 28
Venue: San Mames
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
TV Info: Sky Sports Football. beIN Sports.
Winger Iker Muniain will be a big loss for Ziganda, as he sits out with ruptured cruciate ligaments. Oscar de Marcos will also miss out on a start at right back after he sprained his ankle, and Yeray Alvarez is still out with testicular cancer.
Meanwhile, Rafinha will not travel with the Catalans with a continuous meniscus injury, and record signing Ousmane Dembele’s thigh is still causing him problems and will force him out of the game. Turkish midfielder Arda Turan has bruised his metatarsal, and backup right back Aleix Vidal has sprained his ankle.
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen;Alba,Umtiti,Pique,Semedo;Paulinho,Rakitic,Sergi Roberto;Suarez,Messi,Deulofeu
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 27, 2017
Athletic Club Bilbao: Arrizabalaga;Boveda,Laporte,Etxeita,Saborit;San Jose,Iturraspe;Raul Garcia,Williams,Susaeta;Aduriz
Le dernier match de #UEL :
• Östersunds 2-2 Athletic
En #LaLiga :
• Leganés 1-0 Athletic
— Athletic Bilbao FR (@AthleticClub_FR) October 25, 2017
October 25: Formentera 1-1 Athletic Bilbao (Copa del Rey)
October 22: Leganes 1-0 Athletic Bilbao (La Liga)
October 19: Ostersunds 2-2 Athletic Bilbao (Europa League)
October 14: Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Sevilla (La Liga)
October 1: Valencia 3-2 Athletic Bilbao (La Liga)
October 24: Murcia 0-3 Barcelona (Copa del Rey)
October 21: Barcelona 2-0 Malaga (La Liga)
October 18: Barcelona 3-1 Olympiakos (Champions League)
October 14: Atletico Madrid 1-1 Barcelona (La Liga)
October 1: Barcelona 3-0 Las Palmas (La Liga)
San Mames is certainly not an easy place to visit,Barca may face some trouble against the homeside.But considering the quality
they have in their squad ithink they can overcome this challenge.I am going with a hard fought 2-1 victory for Barcelona.