Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao: Predicted XI for Super Cup final

Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao in their first final of the season.

Barcelona will play the Spanish Super Cup final against Athletic Bilbao after the side managed by Marcelino got past Real Madrid.

For their part, the Catalans squeezed by Real Sociedad in a match that was decided by penalties.

Lionel Messi missed the match due to an injury. His status is still unknown and his availability will surely have an effect in what team manager Ronald Koeman fields.

It was only more than a week ago that Barcelona faced Athletic Bilbao at the San Mamés. The Blaugrana came out on top, winning 3-2 with a Messi brace.

The Basque side are still trying to find their feet under the new manager, Marcelino. But they always seem to give Barcelona a tough time and expect the final to be no different.

Defense

The Barcelona backline should not look too different from the one that played against Real Sociedad.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen was the hero of the semifinal, making a number of crucial saves during regulation and then saving a couple of penalties during the shootout.

The only question for Koeman is who he plays at right-back. Oscar Mingueza played there in the last match because Sergiño Dest was carrying a knock from their last league game. With Dest available again, Koeman will need to decide whether he prefers more of an attacking or defensive edge.

The centre-back situation looks to be set at the moment. Ronald Araujo and Clement Lenglet should get the nod again. Araujo in particular had a good game against La Real. His pace, especially late in the game, proved crucial in stopping a couple of counterattacks and mistakes by the team in possession.

At left-back, again, there is little doubt that Jordi Alba will get the nod with Junior Firpo not in Koeman’s plans and rumored to be on the way out.

Midfield

The midfield pairing could present a few questions. With Barcelona having to play 120 minutes, it will be interesting to see if one of Frenkie de Jong or Sergio Busquets is rested.

The former Ajax player is on a streak of good performances and has either scored or provided an assist in the last couple of games. As far as Busquets is concerned, he still shows flashes of his former self but is more prone to giving the ball away which is not something the team can afford.

Miralem Pjanic came on in overtime and converted his penalty during the shootout. Should Koeman want to give Busquets a rest, Pjanic is the likely option considering the little trust he has in Riqui Puig.

Forwards

A decision as to whether Messi will play or not will be made prior to the match on game day. Should he not be available, then the attack will be the same as the one against Real Sociedad.

That means Ousmane Dembélé will be deployed on the right, Pedri through the center, Antoine Griezmann through the left and Martin Braithwaite as the lone striker.

But if Messi is declared fit, then the player to be sacrificed will be Braithwaite. The other three will be shuffled around with Griezmann ending up as the focal point unless Koeman decides to use Messi as the false ‘9.’

Winning the Spanish Super Cup will be a feather in Koeman’s cap considering how much the team struggled through the first half of the season. A win will also raise the confidence of the squad as they went without a trophy last season. As mentioned, it will not be an easy task.

Athletic Bilbao already beat Barcelona once in a Super Cup final. It was under the old two-legged format back in 2015. Then managed by Ernesto Valverde, Athletic Bilbao won the first leg 4-0.

Expected Starting XI

Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Right-back: Sergiño Dest
Centre-back: Ronald Araujo
Centre-back: Clement Lenglet
Left-back: Jordi Alba
Midfielder: Frenkie de Jong
Midfielder: Sergio Busquets
Forward: Ousmane Dembélé
Forward: Pedri
Forward: Antoine Griezmann
Striker: Martin Braithwaite

Who would you like to see being featured in the finals?