Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Prediction: Back the BTTS/Over 2.5 Double

 | January 23 | 

6 mins read

Mark Sochon's La Liga Tips

Barcelona seem to be playing non-stop at the moment and they have a midweek Copa Del Rey tie ahead of them this Wednesday evening, with a trip to Athletic Club.

Our La Liga expert Mark Sochon weighs in with his preview and predictions ahead of this one...

Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Betting Tips:

  • Back Both Teams to Score & Over 2.5 Goals via the #PickYourPunt tool @ 10/11
  • Back Ferran Torres to score anytime @ 5/2

It’s Copa del Rey Quarter Final week in Spain and the two most successful clubs in the competition’s history meet in Bilbao in the tie of the round.

It’s 30 years since Athletic Club last lifted this trophy though and they’ve experienced their fair share of Copa del Rey heartbreak since. There have been six Final defeats in that period, half of them against Barca, while they’re bidding to make the last four for the fifth season running here.

This is a repeat of a Copa del Rey Last 16 cracker from two years ago. Athletic emerged 3-2 winners in Extra Time that night and also sent Real Madrid packing at San Mames in the next round, only to lose a Semi-Final against a fairly underwhelming Valencia side.

If Athletic are going to shed their nearly men tag, this might just be the year though. They’ve been flying under former Barca boss Ernesto Valverde and are mounting a strong push for Champions League qualification via the league.

Their 1-0 defeat in the league fixture between these clubs in Barcelona in October was immediately followed by a 14 game unbeaten run which included 11 wins and some absolutely dominant home displays such as their 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in December when they could have won by four or five.

That run did come to an end at the weekend though with a 1-0 defeat at Mestalla and a slightly flat performance by their recent standards. Athletic will be hoping that a return to San Mames where they’ll be roared on by the best part of 50,000 Basques can prove the catalyst for another famous cup night.

There’s certainly a vulnerability to Barcelona that Valverde will fancy his team can exploit with their high intensity, high pressing approach. However there was some good news for Xavi at last on Sunday as Barca claimed a vital 4-2 win away to Real Betis who were defending an unbeaten home record.

It was one of Barca’s best results of the campaign and it was inspired by Ferran Torres who put in surely his best performance in Barcelona colours, scoring a hat-trick and assisting Joao Felix for the decisive 90th minute goal which put Xavi’s team 3-2 up.

Xavi made a huge call by opting to start teenager Pau Cubarsi in the heart of his defence. Cubarsi only turned 17 on Monday but handled the game pretty well, although in keeping with their season, there was still a period when Barcelona looked disjointed and easy to get at.

Former Real Madrid star Isco took full advantage, scoring 56th and 59th minute goals as Barca’s two goal advantage was wiped away in the blink of an eye. Xavi can take some encouragement from his team’s ability to dig deep and still get over the line though and it is now six wins from seven in all competitions.

However there is no getting away from the reality that this is another massive game for the Barcelona boss. Xavi himself has hinted that he may need a trophy if he’s to still be in charge of the club next season. Lose on Wednesday night in Bilbao and perhaps his only realistic shot at winning one will be gone.

Team News:

The good news for Barcelona is that they’ll be spared the double trouble of facing both Williams brothers. Iñaki and Nico have contributed 11 goals and 8 assists between them in La Liga this season, whilst operating on the two flanks in what has been a free-scoring Athletic attack.

Iñaki looks to be on the brink of returning from Ghana’s dreadful AFCON campaign but he won’t make it back in time for this match, meaning 21 year old Nico will be the main danger man for the hosts. Athletic are also missing injured right back Oscar De Marcos while they have doubts over midfielders Mikel Vesga and Dani Garcia.

Barcelona are still without Raphinha, Gavi, Iñigo Martinez, Marcos Alonso and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. However they have more defensive options here with Andreas Christensen potentially coming in for Cubarsi while Joao Cancelo is fit and could feature for the first time in three weeks.

We can expect both teams to go as strong as possible with a place in the last four up for grabs.

Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Odds:

Xavi referred to this game as “a toss up” in his pre-match press conference and the odds largely reflect that with Barcelona the slight favourites at 7/5 while Athletic are 13/8 to win with the Draw available at 11/5.

Judging by Barca’s recent games, we can certainly expect goals. You can back Over 2.5 Goals at 8/11 and Over 3.5 Goals at 7/4. You can also combine the former with a Double Chance pick and back Athletic or Draw and Over 2.5 Goals at 2/1. Meanwhile Barcelona or Draw and Over 2.5 Goals is available at 7/4.

Robert Lewandowski is the 9/2 favourite to score first while he’s priced at 7/5 to score anytime. On the other side, Gorka Guruzeta should lead the line for Athletic. He has netted eight times in La Liga and is priced at 6/1 to score first and 2/1 to score anytime.

Bet 1 - Both Teams to Score & Over 2.5 Goals @ 10/11

Athletic are aggressive in the way they press and try to pin teams back. Against an underperforming Barcelona back-line, they’ve every chance of forcing mistakes here and adding to their impressive goal return at San Mames this season which has seen them score 29 in 12 home outings.

There is no sign of Xavi trying to end a run that has seen them keep just one clean sheet in ten games by playing more defensively. If anything, he’s doubled down on trying to turn Barcelona into even more of a ball-playing, risk-taking team and the potential return of Joao Cancelo is another attacking change he could make here.

Overall, everything points to this being quite open and producing chances and goals at both ends. As a result, I’m using the #PickYourPunt tool to back Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams to Score at 10/11, a winning bet in six of Barca’s last seven games.

Bet 2 - Ferran Torres to Score Anytime @ 5/2

Ferran Torres will be on cloud nine after his weekend hat-trick. He’s currently very much in favour with Xavi having spent much of his Barca career warming the bench, so he ought to get the nod again here and the former Manchester City man is already on five goals in 2024.

His pace also makes Ferran perfectly suited to exploit Athletic’s high-line. We can expect the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Pedri to try to play balls over and through the home defence for the 23 year old to run onto and I can certainly see value in backing Ferran Torres to Score Anytime at 5/2 here.

You can check out Mark's La Liga Betting Tips along with those from the rest of the Betfred Insights Spanish Football writers on our La Liga home page...

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