Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona open up the new La Liga season on Friday night, kicking off at 9:00pm local time. There was an uproar with La Liga moving some games to Friday and Monday nights, but the game will go ahead at the scheduled time. Will Barcelona get off to a flying start or will Bilbao surprise the champions?

Home Team: Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao finished in 8th position last year, therefore narrowly missing out on the Europa League places. It couldn’t have been closer, as they were level on points with Espanyol, but lost our due to an inferior head to head record. On the final day of the season, they had a difficult task of going to Sevilla, but a win or draw there would have been enough to secure European football this year, but they ultimately lost 2-0 and a year’s hard work ended up counting for nothing.

Athletic Bilbao haven’t spent any money throughout the summer, as they have entrusted their current squad, and have promoted many of their youngsters to the first team. Also, let’s not forget that they have until September to finalise any potential deals. They won’t be given a tougher start to the season, but would this be the best time to face Barcelona?

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Away Team: Barcelona

Barcelona have won La Liga two times on the bounce now, and have generally dominated the league since the days of Pep Guardiola. As always, Barcelona were busy throughout the summer with key transfer deals, as Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, and Frenkie de Jong from Ajax joined for a combined fee of £170million. Not only them, but some other players have joined with less profile such as left-back Junior Firpor, and right-back Emerson – both Brazilian.

The summer deadline hasn’t finished yet though, with Neymar potentially in line for a shocking return, and the future of Philippe Coutinho yet to be confirmed. Barcelona will likely give new signings their debut and Messi may not play as he has been absent in recent pre-season matches.

Head to Head

Barcelona were frustrated by Athletic Bilbao in both meeting’s last season, with them finishing in draws. In Barcelona it finished 1-1, with the return in Bilbao finishing 0-0. The season before, Barcelona had won both matches 2-0, and had beaten them in all league matches dating back to 2013, where Athletic Bilbao had won 1-0 in the league. Despite not winning in the league against Barcelona for 6 years, they still managed a couple of wins against the Catalan club in the Copa Del Rey and Spanish Super Cup.

Predictions and Betting Tips

Barcelona are at 4/6 to win, with Athletic Bilbao priced at 4/1. For the sides to share the spoils, that is backed at 29/10. On the first day of the season it’s hard to predict how it will pan out, but in pre-season, Barcelona have looked in good form, and I expect them to get a comfortable win here on opening day.

My score line prediction will be a 3-1 away win, at 12/1. For goal scorers, I’d back both Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele to score at 9/2 – with both being prolific in recent matches. If you believe we are in store for an upset, you can back Athletic Bilbao to avoid defeat against Barcelona at 11/10, or back them to win by a 1-goal margin at a generous 13/2.

Finally, to boost earnings on a Barcelona victory, you can back them to lead both halves at 11/8 (Barcelona / Barcelona), score 4+ goals at 6/1, or to win from behind at 9/1.

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