There are probably three teams on the planet that could overturn a 4-0 deficit at home against Athletic Bilbao. Unfortunately for the Basques, they are facing one of them.
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid might be able to do the job, but the one team you'd really plump for in this situation is Barcelona.
Athletic stormed to a shocking victory at a sodden San Mames on Friday, winning the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Aritz Aduriz scored a hat-trick as the champions of Spain and Europe fell pathetically short, perhaps disrupted by a rotated side and certainly tired from their travails in Georgia three days earlier against Sevilla.
Mikel San Jose had scored the first goal from 52 yards, and from then you could tell that this wasn't going to be an ordinary night. And that's exactly what Barcelona need to conjure up at the Camp Nou on Monday, but this time in their favour.
Some Blaugrana fans would argue that thrashings have become routine at the Camp Nou, with Luis Enrique pointing to an astonishing 18 games last season in which Barcelona managed to hit four goals. He said, per Sport:
We are completely convinced that if we do things well we will have a chance. There is no doubt we will try to do it. I have looked at the statistics and last season we scored four or more goals in 18 games. We have the potential and we are alive. When Barca play well anything can happen.
But if they ship just one, it makes their task a lot harder. An away goal would mean Barcelona need to net six to win the Super Cup. It's part of their search for the sextuple, having already seen off Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup to add that to the treble they won last season.
However, Athletic boss Ernesto Valverde believes this trophy means more to his team than it could to Barcelona, who win silverware all the time.
He said, in his pre-match press conference: "For Barca, it’s one more, of a possible sextuple. It’s not like winning the Champions League or the league, but it means everything to us because it has been such a long time since we won a trophy."
In Bilbao the debate is over whether success in the Super Cup would warrant bringing their famous—and underused—barge out to sail down the Nervion River. The fans were hoping to celebrate that way back in May, when they took on Barcelona in the Copa del Rey.
Lionel Messi settled that game at the Camp Nou, with Barcelona running out 3-1 winners. That wouldn't be nearly enough this time around, but the Argentine and his team-mates are more than capable of rising to the occasion.
Date: Monday, August 17
Time: 22 p.m. CET (9 p.m. UK, 4 p.m. ET)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
TV Info: Sky Sports 4 UK, ESPN 2 and ESPN Deportes US
Barcelona have let in an astonishing eight goals in their last two games, the first official matches of the season. That's four against Sevilla and four in the first leg of this final. Athletic, meanwhile, have progressed to the next round of their Europa League qualifying campaign.
|FC Barcelona||Athletic Bilbao|
|L 4-0 v Athletic Bilbao (A) Spanish Super Cup||W 4-0 v Barcelona (H) Spanish Super Cup|
|W 5-4 v Sevilla (N) UEFA Super Cup||D 0-0 v Inter Baku (A) Europa League qualifier|
|W 3-0 v Roma (H) Friendly||L 2-0 v Osasuna (A) Friendly|
|L 2-1 v Fiorentina (A) Friendly||W 2-0 v Inter Baku (W) Europa League qualifier|
|D 2-2 v Chelsea (N) Friendly||D 1-1 v Real Valladolid (H) Friendly|
Expect changes for Barcelona. Luis Enrique gambled in the first leg and rotated his team, dropping his whole first-choice midfield of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta. The latter two of those came on as Barcelona chased the game but to no avail.
Expect them all to start here.
Barcelona's forward line should be unchanged, with Neymar still absent because of mumps. Gerard Pique should return at the back, but Jordi Alba remains sidelined thanks to a thigh problem.
The big question is over the goalkeeper. After letting in eight goals, half the number he conceded in the entirety of last season, will Marc-Andre ter Stegen continue between the sticks? Or will the coach plump for Claudio Bravo?
Valverde, meanwhile, has his own issues to mull over. Should he rush back the likes of San Jose (who has a muscle problem, according to Sport) Inaki Williams and Ander Iturraspe? All the injured members of the team will travel to Barcelona for the second leg, per Sport.
Athletic's manager also has to consider whether or not to rest players for the Europa League qualifier that his team faces on Thursday night against Slovakia's Zilina.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jeremy Mathieu; Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Pedro Rodriguez.
Athletic Club (4-2-3-1): Gorka Iraizoz; Oscar de Marcos, Xabier Etxeita, Aymeric Laporte, Mikel Balenziaga; Carlos Gurpegui, Benat; Ibai Gomez, Javier Eraso, Sabin Merino; Aritz Aduriz.
Players to Watch
Messi doesn't need justification. He's the best player in the world and Barcelona's main hope of launching a comeback. Last time he appeared at the Camp Nou he tried to head-butt Roma's Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa too, so all eyes will be on the forward.
Athletic star Aduriz, meanwhile, is a La Liga legend. The 34-year-old striker is still going strong and has matched Messi on being the only player to score in each of the last 11 seasons for a Spanish club. He scored a hat-trick in the first game and won many aerial battles against Javier Mascherano. If he gets a sniff of goal here, it could be game over for Barcelona.
Luis Suarez against Aymeric Laporte pits one of the finest young defenders in the world against the player who might be the finest central striker around. It will either be a coming-of-age story or an education for the French centre-back.
While Messi is the key to a Barcelona revival in this tie, Suarez needs to function too, linking up many of the attacks unselfishly. Seeing as the Catalans need four goals, Suarez must get the better of Laporte.
Odds (via Oddschecker)
- Barcelona 1/6
- Draw 15/2
- Athletic Bilbao 18