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Barcelona’s next opponent Athletic Bilbao – opponent analysis

Kundan Raj Parajulee Contributor
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Kundan Raj Parajulee Contributor
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A disappointing draw at Sevilla has pegged Barcelona back and has further warned them that the league title isn’t going to be a walk in the park. They now invite Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou with the hope of putting behind the dismal display at Sanchez-Pizjuan by delivering an excellent win.

Athletic are unbeaten in their last five games, facing the likes of Atletico, Betis, and Villareal in the process, while averaging more goals (1.8-0.8) and more Expected Goals (1.728-1.614). Despite being unbeaten at home this season, Barcelona is playing a full-fledged ‘Los Leones’ without several vital players viz. Frenkie De Jong & Sergi Roberto (injuries), Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal (suspension), and Ousmane Dembele, of course. So, how significant a threat can Bilbao be?

Season Overview

 The plot below gives an overall idea of Athletic Bilbao as a team on how they fare against tougher and easier teams, at home and away, etc.

Playing Barcelona at Camp Nou is probably the last thing you would ask as a team. And when there are just two reds above the zero line as in the graph, you would certainly not.

Athletic’s season started brilliantly, with just four losses in the first half. Their season kept gaining shape based on their solid defense (which will be detailed through the next plot later). But their astonishingly promising season jolted severely after they went winless in their next six games. Uncharacteristically though, they have been in the score sheet in 60% of their away losses compared to 0% at home. This proves that they don’t travel just to sit back with ten men. The graph has been tried to be made as self-explanatory as possible, so for further insight, Have a LOOK!

Key Takeaway: Athletic isn’t that big of a problem away from home.

 But what if they have been either too unlucky? Or too lucky? Is the deterministic analysis enough to make deductions? Certainly not! So, let’s have a probabilistic analysis i.e., Expected Goals ( xGs) collected from understat.com.

Here is a compact summary of the chart above in the form of a table.

 Now, it really makes sense when I say their defense shaped their season. In 11 of their home games this season, they have conceded less than they were normally expected to while in away games, it’s almost 50-50. This is huge for a mid-table club. Also, in away games, their finishing has been better than expected in 60% of the matches.

Key Takeaways: Combining the above two charts, we concluded that Athletic creates fewer chances in away games but finishes them better while their defensive shape gets weaker than in the home games. Optimistic signs for a defensively solid but offensively slack FC Barcelona.

                    

Defensive and Offensive comparison

Even though Athletic has been more disciplined throughout the season (as shown in the chart above), Barca has better defensive records as of late. And when it comes to offensive statistics’ comparison, it’s not even close. If Barcelona attackers approach the game being at their absolute best, then there will be no contest. It will be a nice battle between Barcelona attackers and the Athletic Defenders at Camp Nou with Barcelona under immense pressure to gather all 3 points.

Visca el Barca!!

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