La Liga: Changes likely for Barca as Valverde returns to Camp Nou (Preview)

FC Barcelona entertain Athletic Club Bilbao on Sunday night in another vital game for Xavi Hernandez’s side.

Barcelona reacted well to their defeat against Real Madrid on Thursday with a 3-0 win at home to Villarreal but could be six points behind their rivals in the title race by the time Sunday’s match kicks off.

Xavi will probably be forced to make some changes to his side, but it’s hard to see him rest Robert Lewandowski, who has 11 league goals already this season and has been key to their best results so far, reports Xinhua.

However, Raphinha and Hector Bellerin could come into the team, while Sergio Busquets, who was dropped on Thursday, has a chance of replacing Frenkie de Jong and perhaps Alex Balde could step in for Jordi Alba.

The game sees the return of Ernesto Valverde to Camp Nou. The coach, who is in his third spell at Athletic, was sacked by Barca in January 2020 after leading them to two league titles but never seemed to get the respect he deserved from Camp Nou.

Valverde has turned Athletic into a side that likes to make the game hard for their rivals and Inaki and Nico Williams and Oihan Sancet can be expected to give Barca problems on the break, although Athletic’s style of play can at the time leave their defense exposed.

Inigo Martinez is also expected to play for the Basque side after being linked with a move to Barca over the summer, and the defender is still thought to be a target for next season or even January.

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